Chronic fatigue syndrome and Fibromyalgia are often used interchangeably, because a lot of its symptoms are similar to Fibromyalgia (FM.) Just like CFS, FM is also characterized by pain, fatigue and sleep deprivation. In fact, patients with CFS are often diagnosed with FM too. A study revealed 34% of patients with CFS also had FM. However, there are people who have only one of the two — either CFS or FM. There are four key differences between the two conditions.
- CFS is usually triggered by some kind of an infectious illness, and less frequently after a trauma. On the other hand, trauma is a more common trigger of FM as compared to infection.
- One of the key symptoms of CFS is chronic fatigue with generalized pain. On the other hand, FM comes with chronic pain at multiple points in the body.
- Patients suffering from CFS show disruption of sleep during the REM stage of sleep, which makes up nearly 25% of our sleep cycle. Patients diagnosed with a combination of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia show disruption of sleep during slow wave sleep or deep sleep, which plays an important role in restoration and recovery of the brain.
- Patients with FM have elevated levels of Substance P, a small protein that’s related to the transmission of pain-related information to the central nervous system. This substance is the first to react if there’s an injury to the body. Patients with CFS have normal levels of this substance.
Abbi, B., & Natelson, B. H. (2012). Is chronic fatigue syndrome the same illness as fibromyalgia: evaluating the ‘single syndrome’ hypothesis. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, 106(1): 3-9.
Bellato, E., Marini, E., Castoldi, F., Barbasetti, N., Mattei, L., Bonasia, D. E., & Blonna, D. (2012). Fibromyalgia Syndrome: Etiology, Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Pain Research and Treatment.
Evengard, B., Nilsson, C. G., Lindh, G., Lindquist, L., Eneroth, P., Fredrikson, S., . . . Henriksson, K. G. (1998). Chronic fatigue syndrome differs from fibromyalgia. No evidence for elevated substance P levels in cerebrospinal fluid of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Pain, 78(2):153-5.
Fukuda, K., Straus, S. E., Hickie, I., Sharpe, M. C., Dobbins, J. G., Komaroff, A., & Group, I. C. (1994). The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; A Comprehensive Approach to its Definition and Study. Annals of Internal Medicine, 121(12): 53-59.
Kishi, A., Natelson, B. H., Togo, F., Struzik, Z. R., Rapoport, D. M., & Yamamoto, Y. (2010). Sleep stage transitions in chronic fatigue syndrome patients with or without fibromyalgia. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc, 5391-4.
Roth, T. (2009). Slow Wave Sleep: Does it Matter? Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 5(2 Suppl): S4-S5.
Shephard, R. J. (2001). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Sports Med, 31: 167.