Difference Between Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue syndrome

Fatigue is a term to describe the awareness of a person related to the exhaustive physical and psychological effects due to variant pathologies, or as a physiological response. Here, the person experiences muscle pain, lethargy, tiredness, sleepiness etc. The physical fatigue is usual following strenuous exercise, or some pathological condition, also this may exist for a long time. The mental fatigue is experienced as a feeling of burn out, sleepiness, and can further its effects to depression as well. Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue syndrome are two of the least understood conditions, and we will discuss them in terms of cause, symptoms, diagnosis, and management.


Fibromyalgia is a condition, where the patient experiences body wide, long term symptoms of pain, and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons and soft tissues. Furthermore, they complain of headache, sleep problems, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. This is most common in females in the age group of 20 to 50, and a clear cut cause has not been ascertained. However, it has been linked with, physical/emotional trauma, sleep depravity, viral infections, and abnormal pain response. The pain may feel as if a deep ache or a burning pain. The tender points include, back of the neck, shoulders, chest, lower back, hips, shins, elbows, and knees. They tend to have pain during the morning and at night but feels normal during the day. Medications are used in conjunction with physical therapy and exercises. The medications include, Duloxetine, Pregabalin, and other drugs like anti epileptics drugs, muscle relaxants etc.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition, where the patient has severe, continuous feeling of tiredness of unknown medical origin. It is a condition common in females between the ages of 30 to 50, and is thought to be linked with Epstein Barr Virus and Human Herpes Virus-6, and inflammation of the nerves due to the immune response. The symptom is tiredness that last at least 6 months, not relieved by bed rest, and severe enough to restrict from participating in certain activities. Other symptoms include mild fever, muscle ache/pain, irritability, not refreshed after a good night’s sleep, sore throat, and sore lymph nodes. This is a diagnosis of exclusion, and symptoms specific to CFS must be there for a diagnosis. Management of this condition includes, health diet, sleep management techniques, cognitive behavioural therapy, anti pyretics, anxiolytics, antidepressants, etc.

What is the difference between Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Both these conditions are of unknown causation, and are thought to be associated with viral infections. Both conditions are causing fatigue mostly in females of the reproductive age group. The main symptoms are similar and both need to exclude other diagnoses before concluding with the current one. The management is basically supportive, and a combination of physical, psychological and symptomatic treatment. Fibromyalgia has a fluctuating type of fatigue, whereas CFS has a chronic, continuous pain. CFS also has an inflammatory element causing fever, sore lymph nodes. Fibromyalgia has in it constellation irritable bowel syndrome, numbness, palpitations, and headache. CFS has a specific diagnostic framework, which fibromyalgia lacks. In management, CFS is mainly done through psychological means, whereas fibromyalgia requires specific medications to help with the tiredness.

Due to its unknown origin, people and health care professionals tend to dismiss regular complaints of aches and pains in females. But careful observations and investigations would help to cope with these conditions. Both these conditions are with constellations of non specific variant symptoms. But poor sleep, painful sites, pain stretched throughout the day are some of the symptoms that would point in the right direction.