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What's the difference between CFS and Fibromyalgia?

By HERWriter Guide August 21, 2010 - 11:56am

Let's talk about the similarities first!

From EmpowHer's own Encyclopedia:

Symptoms of CFS include:
■Unexplained, new onset, persistent fatigue that is not relieved with bed rest and often worsens with physical or mental activity
■Muscle aches over six months
■Joint pain without swelling or redness over six months
■Headaches over six months
■Trouble with short-term memory or concentration
■Forgetfulness or confusion
■Irritability, anxiety , panic attacks, mood swings, or depression
■Sore throat over six months
■Tender lymph nodes over six months
■Trouble sleeping or not feeling refreshed after sleep over six months
■Prolonged fatigue lasting 24 hours or more after exercise
■Visual disturbances: eyes sensitive to light, blurring, pain
■Reduced activities (social, job-related, educational, and personal)
■Dizziness, balance problems, or fainting
■Brain fog
■Chills and night sweats
■Allergies or sensitivities to foods , chemicals, odors, medications, or noise
■Irritable bowel

For Fibromyalgia:

■Generalized fatigue or tiredness
■Reduced physical endurance
■Generalized aches and pains of muscles, tendons, and ligaments
■Muscle tightening or spasms
■Pain in specific areas of the body, especially:
◦Back (upper and lower)
◦Hips and thighs
■Insomnia or poor sleep
■Sensations of numbness or swelling (although swelling is not actually present)
■Chronic headaches, including migraines
■Morning stiffness, worst on first arising

Factors that may trigger or worsen symptoms include:

■Weather changes, especially cold, damp weather
■Stress or anxiety
■Medical illness

So as we can see, some very striking similarities. In fact, it's not uncommon for people to be diagnosed with both.

However, the emphasis on treatment of Fibro is often pain management while the treatment of CFS tend to be managing such extreme fatigue.

To those of us with CFS - do you see similarities to Fibro in your case? Do you think that pain management and extreme fatigue management being the two main treatment differences warrant the diagnosis of one, rather than the other?

Do you think these two conditions should be combined under one umbrella, or do you believe the differences are enough to need different diagnosis?

To those of us with CFS - do you believe that you may also have Fibro?


By November 6, 2011 - 12:09pm

Jackie, I wonder if you couldn't find another kind of practitioner to consult. Nuvigil and caffeine don't address the cause of the problem; the CPAP hasn't helped; and meanwhile your health is still suffering, and you are endangering others by driving while drowsy.
A holistic practitioner who is trained in looking more deeply into your situation might very well, in my opinion, be able to help you in ways that more drugs and treating of symptoms never could. One hint that you're seeing the right kind of practitioner is that the initial intake lasts more than 45 minutes, whereas most MDs spend only 15-30 minutes, and spend most of this on physical exam that is useless for chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. Naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists, holistic doctors, nurses, or dietitians, chiropractors with formal nutrition training, all might fit that profile.
I really hope you are able to find someone to help you get to the bottom of this.
Best of Health,
Dr. Daniel Heller

November 6, 2011 - 12:09pm
By HERWriter October 23, 2011 - 10:49am

Thanks Dr. Heller

I'll keep these other pointers in mind. I've only had a little experience using baths as therapy. Good ideas.

October 23, 2011 - 10:49am
By October 23, 2011 - 9:02am

Jody, magnesium is a super-important nutrient that often gets ignored compared to its more popular cousin, calcium. A great way to get magnesium and directly help some of the aches of FM and help de-stress is Epsom Salts Baths. You actually absorb magnesium through your skin, and so it helps temporarily with pain but also over the lung run (I recommend taking magnesium supplements, minimum 400 mg/day, also.) Use two cups Epsom Salts per bath. Throwing in a tablespoon of Natural Sea Salt or ancient mineral bed salt helps it work a little better, in my opinion.
Dr. Daniel Heller
PMS Comfort

October 23, 2011 - 9:02am
By October 23, 2011 - 8:17am

I have been dealing with it so long that I can not remember exactly when it started. However; I definely remeber dealing with it in my twenties and it has progressively gotten worse since then. I also have sleep apnea and have to sleep with a cpap at night. Originally, my doctor hoped that this would help my situation, and while it did make a difference, it just was not enough. I would fall asleep at my desk in the middle of typing, fall asleep watching tv no matter how interesting the program, and fall asleep driving. I have often woken up just in time to avoid a head on collision, which is why my doctor put me on the Nuvigil. Even with this, I constantly have to drink coffee, about 2 pots a day.

October 23, 2011 - 8:17am
By October 21, 2011 - 8:03am

I have narcolepsy and had to be placed on Nuvigil in order to be able to sit down or drive without falling asleep. Prior to being placed on Nuvigil, the driving thing had become really dangerous as I have to drive 20 miles to get to work.

October 21, 2011 - 8:03am
By HERWriter September 24, 2011 - 8:00pm

Hi Carolina,

I take a combination calcium /magnesium /vit. D /zinc tablet for muscle cramps.

Lymphagen is made by Genestra and can be found on the internet if you can't find it in a local drugstore or grocery store.

I have also used castor oil to soak my feet when I have had pain and swelling and it took many days to get rid of the pain but I noticed improvement from the first day. I pour some into a big wide tupperware container :) that is long enough for my foot, then saturate a hand towel with it and drape the towel over the hurt part of my foot, and keep it soaking for an hour -- once in the morning and once in the evening.

I have had the experience of falling asleep when I'm just sitting. I would take it as a hint that you need to be spending more time resting. No matter how much time you are already resting, I'd think about putting in some more short rest periods through the day if it were me.

Our ultradian rhythm is such that the body likes to take a rest break every 90 min or so. Rest for 20 - 30 min. then do it again 90 min or 2 hrs later as well. It helps to not use up all our energy so quickly.

Rest is really important for any recovery and healing to take place. Good luck!

September 24, 2011 - 8:00pm
By August 18, 2011 - 3:52pm

Greetings! I'm a licensed Naturopathic Doctor (N.D.) practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I've seen hundreds of cases of both conditions. Plus, I myself have personally experienced both conditions, so I have a lot of compassion for anyone struggling with them. I have to agree with Susan and the other posters here that there is a lot of overlap between these two conditions. I'd say that nearly everyone with FM has some degree of fatigue, but the opposite is not true: there are people with CFS who don't have the muscle pain and sleeping problems that tend to characterize FM. The treatment of these conditions using natural therapies is sometimes remarkably effective, and it is sometimes a long, arduous battle. The two main threads I've seen in my practice, and to some degree in my own personal experience, is to find out if there are food sensitivities or allergies playing a role (such as wheat, dairy, sugar, and the like) and to begin to address any ongoing depression and anxiety issues that aren't caused by the CFS or FM themselves. My website, http://www.drdanielheller.com has more information on my practice and my philosophy of natural healing. Thanks, and you're welcome to contact me with any questions.

August 18, 2011 - 3:52pm
By April 22, 2011 - 11:42am

Jody, could you tell us more about the tabs (?) you take for charley-horse, and also about the 'Lymphagen' cream, where to find it, etc. I often have fairly severe swelling in my feet and ankles and the doctor said it is lymphatic. Of course I'm often woken by muscle cramps, very severe, in the middle of the night too. I would LOVE to find something to get rid of them quickly. As it stands the areas I have them in are often tender for several days afterward. Another symptom I've developed recently seems to be very close to Narcolepsy. I often fall asleep at my desk, or even on the toilet after getting up to pee in the middle of the night. My doctor says this isn't unusual for CFS/FM (I've been dx'd as having both.) But, it's scary. Does anyone else have this problem? TG I don't drive! I've come close to falling asleep on the bus, however.

April 22, 2011 - 11:42am
By HERWriter September 27, 2010 - 2:20pm


Pain level is much less than it used to be. It used to stop normal life for me on a very regular basis. Right hand and arm were so crippled up at one time that I couldn't use them at all. Couldn't carry anything because the pain would get even worse for weeks after, and anyway there was no strength or flexibility there.

Times I could hardly walk due to pain in my legs and feet.

But the things I think have been making the difference would be these. Omega-3 oil, and being off grains and other starchy carbs reduces inflammation. Acupuncture makes a difference. I had a couple of reiki treatments, and she taught me some things to be able to treat myself at home.

Calcium / magnesium / vitamin D can help with pain, stiffness and muscle cramps. Taking these will melt terrible muscle cramping / charlie horses in 20 min. or less.

An ointment called Traumeel is all natural, and can often get rid of serious pain.

Another cream called Lymphagen stimulates the lymph system, which helps get rid of toxins and also reduces swelling and inflammation. The first time my hand and arm swelled up it lasted for more than 2 months. Could not hold a pen, couldn't cut my own food ... Hand looked like a baseball mitt.

The next time it started I had discovered Lymphagen, and started applying it. Within 2 days, the distorting swelling was gone and the pain was subsiding dramatically. A few more days and things were almost back to normal (well, my "normal". :)

September 27, 2010 - 2:20pm
By HERWriter September 10, 2010 - 9:16pm

I think there is alot of overlap of symptoms.

I have CFS as does my 20 yr old son. My husband has fibro. I'd say the biggest difference is that fibro has more pain, and CFS has more mental disability crop up. I have pain as well but mostly it's very manageable. What used to be the worst of it for me was the mental fog and disorientation. I often felt like this might be what a stroke patient experiences while recovering.

The exhaustion with a capital E was huge, but the mental debilitation has always been the worst.

I don't think combining them is a good idea at this point. Not until there has been more research and data to indicate that they are the same.

September 10, 2010 - 9:16pm

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