Similarities and Differences Between Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Woman experiencing neck pain

Some diseases are so closely related they are easily be mistaken for one another. One such case is the distinction between fibromyalgia fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). These are both illnesses largely characterized by fatigue and chronic pain. They are also thought to be an expression of a similar overarching disorder. This is why treatment for chronic fatigue can help patients suffering from either disease be able to manage and reduce the severity of their symptoms.

Differences Between Fibromyalgia and CFS

  • Research – Both fibromyalgia fatigue and CFS were researched and developed by different medical fields. Rheumatologists and arthritis experts were responsible for finding fibromyalgia. On the other hand, immunologists and virus experts were primarily responsible for CFS. With this different set of start off points, fibromyalgia became more closely associated as a muscle disorder and CFS as a viral infection.
  • Onset of Symptoms – For people with fibromyalgia fatigue, related symptoms arose from a significant trauma like a physical injury or an emotional shock. In contrast, those with CFS experienced symptoms because of the spread of a viral infection like influenza.
  • Distinct Pain – Individuals with fibromyalgia have distinct pain sites. This means they feel pain or tenderness from between 11 to 18 different locations in their body. While those with CFS also experience chronic pain, they do not do so in specific areas.
  • Inflammation – There is no evidence of an inflammatory response for people with fibromyalgia. However, fever and swollen glands are common symptoms for those with CFS.

Treatment of Fibromyalgia and CFS

Woman relaxing in bed with eye maskBoth types of diseases are more likely to affect women than they are to men. They are also more likely to develop and be diagnosed in middle-aged individuals. Similar treatments can be used to ease symptoms of fibromyalgia fatigue and CFS.

  • Sleep – Patients of both diseases commonly experience disruptions in the REM stage of their sleep cycle. As such, one of the key ways to manage their symptoms involves getting an adequate amount of sleep. Individuals should try and maintain good sleeping habits and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. They may benefit from the use of sleep medication.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT can help an individual recognize their symptoms and triggers. With this, they can begin to develop a set of coping strategies. Often, this involves relaxation therapy, rest, and cognitive pain management.

Treatment strategies for the two diseases diverge in some areas. For instance, exercise is beneficial for those with fibromyalgia as it relieves symptoms related to muscle pain. However, patients with CFS should reduce exercise as their symptoms can worsen with exertion. They may be prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin to ease muscle aches and pain and manage other symptoms. The same NSAIDs have no effect on patients with fibromyalgia fatigue. They may be given antidepressants for pain relief instead.

While there are many similarities between fibromyalgia fatigue and CFS, it remains important to make a careful and accurate diagnosis of the particular disease. Knowing the exact pattern, progression, and symptoms of the disease allows for an individualized treatment plan and the development of more efficient strategies for wellness.