How Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia Are Different

Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) share some compelling similarities. Research scientists have even speculated that they are essentially the same disorder!

What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

WebMD describes chronic fatigue syndrome as a debilitating tiredness that interferes with daily activities and cannot be relieved by bed rest.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome as fatigue that has been present for more than six months and is accompanied by following:

  • tender or enlargement nodes,
  • joint and muscle pain,
  • sore throat,
  • signs of systemic illness.

There is an overlap between symptoms of fibromyalgia and CFS.

These include:

  • Headaches,
  • sleep disruptions,
  • impaired concentration,
  • dizziness,
  • bowel issues like diarrhea and/or constipation,
  • depression or anxiety.

How are fibromyalgia and CFS different?

Many researchers are divided regarding the true difference between chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

The primary difference between the two disorders is that pain is the primary symptom of people with fibromyalgia, while fatigue is the predominant complaint of people living with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Fibromyalgia pain is generally widespread and chronic. The fatigue that CFS sufferers experience is highly profound and can actually be totally crippling.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is often activated by an infectious illness and even sometimes after surgery or trauma. Fibromyalgia, however, is usually activated by a trauma, not as often by an infectious illness.

While it is mainly women who suffer from either disorder, women are more likely to have fibromyalgia at a 9 to 1 ratio than chronic fatigue syndrome at a 7 to 3 ratio.

Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are thought to be separate but related conditions. What they share is severe fatigue that disrupts the normal rhythm of day-to-day life.

Fatigue and fibromyalgia: a profound connection

The connection between fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue is so profound that some researchers say that if a fibromyalgia patient can improve their sleep, their fibromyalgia symptoms will get better. If you have fibromyalgia-related fatigue or think you have CFS, it makes sense to get screened for other causes of fatigue like thyroid issues or anemia.

While many people rely on sleeping pills to get some sleep at night, they are definitely not a long-term solution. And, if you area dealing with a chronic condition like fibromyalgia or CFS, you likely understand that you will need it more sustainable intervention.

The first thing that you should do if you are experiencing chronic fatigue syptoms is to be screened for sleep-deprivation issues like snoring or breathing problems.

If you have sleep apnea, allergies, or respiratory problems these factors could be harming your ability to get a good nights sleep and possibly causing you to feel fatigued. There are medical interventions to remedy all of these problems.

How to improve your sleep quality

Some common corrections you can make to improve your sleep hygiene include:

  • limiting the light, noise and other stimuli in the bedroom
  • purchasing a white noise machine
  • maintaining a comfortable, cool room temperature
  • relaxation strategies prior to going to sleep like meditation, reading or soft music.

Fibromyalgia and CFS resources

  1. CFS versus FM: Twins, Cousins, or Just Acquaintances?
  2. WebMD: Living With Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

Final thoughts

These evidently interrelated but distinct disorders benefit from similar treatment approaches. The trouble with treating these chronic conditions is that there is a frustrating absence of a known cause.

General remedies include optimizing nutrition, supplementation, improving sleep hygiene, and managing pain symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms of fibromyalgia with fatigue or just a feeling of debilitating tiredness, best to check in with your physician to get a diagnosis.

They will be able to help distinguish between your symptoms and determine whether it is fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Once you have a diagnosis, you will be able to begin practice treating your condition and hopefully achieving a positive outcome.

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