Chronic Fatigue Syndrome(CFS) vs Fibromyalgia Syndrome(FM), Know The Difference

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome(CFS) vs Fibromyalgia Syndrome(FM), Know The Difference

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FM) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) have a lot in common and are often confused to the point where some experts believe that both conditions are the same, but displayed differently. However, these two syndromes are essentially two separate medical conditions which often coexist and share common symptoms such as pain and fatigue. Although showing identical symptoms, FM and CFS can be distinugished by a deeper understanding of how pain and fatigue is experienced by each patient.

Know the difference between Chronic fatigue and Fibromyalgia to seek the right treatment…

Difference in Core Symptom

One way in which FM is different from CFS is that pain is the main symptom with the former, while fatigue is the main symptom in the latter.

Pain as experienced by fibromyalgia patients is both widespread and severe, and is often accompanied by stiffness. When doctors examine fibromyalgia patients, they find several spots that are tender to touch. Detecting these spots, known as tender points, helps diagnose fibromyalgia. This brings us to a point of difference between the two conditions as CFS patients do not complain of tender points that FM patients do. 

CFS, on the other hand, has one core symptom which is fatigue. It can be totally incapacitating. Usually, fatigue in CFS patients that has been pre-existing for over six months is generally accompanied by:

  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Tender or enlarged lymph nodes

Difference in Type of Pain

The kind of pain experienced by both these conditions is also different. Fibromyalgia is associated with amplified pain or hyperalgesia and pain from a pain-free source or allodynia. Although CFS is related to muscle pain but not every CFS patient goes through the excruciating pain of fibromyalgia. Additionally, when it comes to pain treatment, the pain associated with fibromyalgia reduces with massage and heat application, however, with CFS, it doesn’t improve.

Difference in Sleep Problems
CFS patients sleep a lot but never feel well rested. Although CFS patients show abnormal sleep patterns, researchers find it difficult to identify sleep disorders among them. On the other hand, fibromyalgia is a known to be accompanied with sleep disorders like alpha-EEG anomaly, Sleep apnea, Restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movements during sleep. Usually, sleep disorders show up before fibromyalgia is diagnosed and such patients get poor quality sleep.

Difference in Chemical Abnormality
Patients of fibromyalgia have abnormal levels of P, a cellular chemical which sends out pain signals. However, patients of CFS report this to be normal. On the other hand, CFS patients have high levels of RNase L, a cellular antiviral enzyme, which remains at a normal level in fibromyalgia patients. On top of that, patients of CFS are found with a higher immune dysfunction, which is not seen in fibromyalgia.

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