Effective Treatment for Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia: A Blended Approach

Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, both associated with pain and fatigue, are chronic conditions requiring ongoing treatment and management. Although these treatments differ, the benefits are effective in managing both conditions.


What Are Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia cause extreme chronic pain and fatigue. Yet, the symptoms of these conditions are so indistinguishable that there is ongoing debate in the medical community whether they are just different manifestations of the same disorder. The prevailing opinion maintains that the two conditions are distinct disorders.

Fibromyalgia is the more common of the two conditions. Estimates from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention claim that about 4 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia, compared to 863,000 to 2.5 million sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome. 

Accurately differentiating the condition creates some measure of diagnostic ambiguity. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation, after evaluating diagnostic criteria in detail, suggests that anywhere from half to three quarters of fibromyalgia sufferers would also meet the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome. 


How Do Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Differ?

Part of the confusion in accurately diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia stems from the way each condition is evaluated. Fibromyalgia tends to be studied by rheumatologists and arthritis experts, while chronic fatigue syndrome is more frequently diagnosed and treated by immunologists and virologists. Fibromyalgia is often considered a muscular disorder, while chronic fatigue syndrome is usually treated as a complication from a viral infection.

For example, if the same symptoms are shown to a neurologist and a virologist, one will see symptoms of a stroke and the other an infection. This may be a result of hyperspecialization. As such, the diagnostic criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are more nuanced providing greater objectivity.

Fibromyalgia is typified by chronic pain, especially localized into 18 distinct tender points. Sixty percent of these points must be identified as painful or tender to meet the diagnosis. While fatigue is a component of fibromyalgia, it tends to be secondary to the pain.

In contrast, chronic fatigue syndrome may include general aches and pains, but fatigue is the primary complaint. Chronic fatigue syndrome may cause fever, swollen glands, among other signs of an inflammatory or immune response, while fibromyalgia does not. 

 

What are the Commonalities Between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia?

Both chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are diagnosed at a higher rate among women than men, and are often detected in middle-age. Both conditions are characterized by pain and fatigue, often resulting in debilitation.

Insomnia and sleep disturbances, including an inability to achieve deep, restorative sleep, are also symptoms of these disorders. 

Even though there are no treatments or reliable cures for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, managing symptoms and supporting the body’s other systems may improve   the quality of life.

 

How Do the Treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia Work Synergistically? 

The treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are not necessarily comparable. Fibromyalgia patients often respond well to increased exercise, while the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome can be exacerbated by increased activity.

Lifestyle habits, such as drinking and smoking, may affect both conditions by increasing the discomfort of fibromyalgia and seriously inhibiting quality sleep. Limited consumption of inflammatory foods, those high in sodium or refined sugar, processed foods, and meats, may also lessen symptoms. For more information about inflammation and diet, read our post on implementing a healthy diet. For example, consuming caffeine causes dehydration, lose of critical water-soluble vitamins, and sleep disturbances. Each of these effects alone can quickly lead to fatigue, physical pain, and mental disturbance. 

Reducing stress through mindfulness practices, yoga, meditation, and psychological counselling can dramatically ease the symptoms of both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. For example, being still with one’s thoughts and focusing on one’s breath can regulate dopamine and serotonin levels leading to healthy sleep, decreased pain, and spike in energy.  Massage eases soreness and improves blood circulation. 

Consciously reducing one’s stress level dramatically helps decrease the symptoms of  chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.. 

If you are experiencing chronic pain, a significant drop in energy, fatigue, or sleep disturbances, you may be experiencing chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.  CONTACT US TODAY! Advanced Health is here to support you in treating these conditions and ensuring lifelong wellness. 

 

Further Reading:

Buchwald D., Garrity D. “Comparison of Patients With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.” Arch Intern Med. 154.18 (1994): 2049–2053. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420180053007

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/619352

Buchwald, D., “Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome: similarities and differences.” Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 22.2 (1996): 219-43.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9157484

Davis, J.L., “Living With Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.” Retrieved June 2019 from:

https://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia/features/living-with-fibromyalgia-and-chronic-fatigue#1

Dellwo, A. “An Overview of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” (2019). Retrieved June 2019 from:

https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-716113

“Fibro Fog and Fatigue.” Retrieved June 2019 from https://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia/guide/fibromyalgia-and-fatigue#1

Klippel, J. “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia” Retrieved June 2019 from

https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/tools-resources/expert-q-a/fibromyalgia-questions/ch

ronic-fatigue-syndrome-fibromyalgia.php

Meeus, M. & Nijs, “Central sensitization: a biopsychosocial explanation for chronic widespread pain in patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome” J. Clin Rheumatol 26 (2007): 465. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10067-006-0433-9

Rusu, C., et al. “Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia in Canada: prevalence and associations with six health status indicators.” Health promotion and chronic disease prevention in Canada: research, policy and practice vol. 35.1 (2015): 3-11.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4939456/

Thompson, D. “The Common Threads of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” (2011) Retreived June 2019 from

https://www.everydayhealth.com/fibromyalgia/fibromyalgia-and-chronic-fatigue-syndrome.aspx

Author
Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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