Fibromyalgia VS Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Let’s just open up with the disclaimer that the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and I’m not licensed to provide you with anything really, except maybe a ride in the car as I do have a driver’s licenses. Even still I can’t actually drive right now so I guess you’re out of luck there too. 😉

When I was first diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) by the Rheumatologist my original PCP said that he didn’t believe in CFS and that his school of thought was that it was all Fibromyalgia (FM). My gut response was ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Let me tell you after years of working in legal compliance I have the poker face to end all poker faces so I just sat there straight faced and listened. My gut reaction came from this: I was a fully functional, working, exercising, active adult for 10 years with FM and now I was none of those things.

Back in 2004 after a round of Cipro I came down with an odd flu, which ended up being diagnosed as FM. Come to find out from a nurse practioner, last year I think, that there is a higher than normal incidence of Cipro users and FM diagnoses, but that’s for another blog. Honestly, FM didn’t slow me down. I learned to live with the symptoms. I learned that stress, caffeine and sugar made the pain considerably worse. And I found that avoiding those things and walking really helped with the pain. I did experience a little fatigue but it was fatigue where you could rest for 20 to 30 minutes and then keep going. And that was it, beside the seemingly constant neck pain, which I’ve read is common for FM sufferers I didn’t miss a beat. Don’t get me wrong I knew it was there, I was in pain, but I’ve had pain on and off my whole life so I just kept chugging along.

Which takes us to July 2014, wherein I felt ill, like a flu, but like my body had been drained of energy and symptom after symptom started to appear. The Rheumatologist said it was textbook CFS. I had no idea what that even was. I went home to research and sure enough, I fit the bill. Here’s the thing though folks, this was not the same as the FM I’d previously experienced, not even close. The fatigue could not be fixed with a 30 minute nap, or any nap, or any amount of sleep. In fact I have never felt as good as I did pre-illness. And the pain, it’s not the same either, not even close. The pain with FM was in specific pressure points mixed with neck pain. The CFS pain travels around my body, and it throbs, burns, stabs, tingles…basically all of the above. As I’ve stated before the symptom list is too long to list, but with FM there were two things, pain and fatigue, but now with CFS there are literally 132. Yes, you read that correctly I have 132 symptoms that I did not have before I got sick with CFS. I’ve learned to dismiss, almost on a daily basis, things that would sendsome straight to the ER. I’m not bragging or trying to scare anyone. I’m just saying in my personal experience FM and CFS have not been the same.

I wish I had answers of what the differences are or what causes them or if they are even related. There is a lot of information on the internet of current research being conducted. I guess the best news is that even as you read this people are trying to figure out the answers we all are looking for. Although I strongly suspect some sort of EBV -> MONO -> FM -> MECFS relationship, I don’t honestly know. I’ve been diagnosed with them all, in that order. The EBV felt a lot like the MONO and the MONO felt a lot like CFS except it quickly, by comparison, tapered off. I know we all have different symptoms and experiences and I’m not trying to categorize or diagnose anyone. My whole point in writing this blog was because there are a lot of people on social media who say they have FM but they seem to have CFS symptoms and I can’t help but wonder if they have been misdiagnosed. This concerns me because with FM they tell you to exercise (because light exercise actually does help FM) and with CFS exercise may make you more ill. If you’ve been diagnosed with FM but you experience post exertional malaise, please be careful.

Chronic pain and fatigue are common symptoms of both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. The difference is that, in fibromyalgia, fatigue often takes a backseat to debilitating muscle pain. In chronic fatigue syndrome, people have an overwhelming lack of energy, but also can experience some pain.

I’ll close by saying that from where I’m sitting it’s not the name, EBV, MONO, FM, CFS, ME, that matters. I know people get all fluffy about the names and I understand that that is important but even more important, in my opinion, is that so many people are so very ill and so many of those people may or may not be receiving proper care instructions. I’ve read that the treatments for CFS and FM are virtually the same and I’ve experienced that first hand. This makes no sense to me as these are two very different illness or phases of an illness or something. All I can know for certain is what helped me with FM makes me desperately ill with CFS and it is deeply concerning to me that there are FM patients out there pushing themselves to exercise and be active when they could potentially have CFS. So please listen to your body, and do your research. Someday, hopefully sooner than later, we will all have the answers, the causes, the cures, and the tests to confirm we are in fact inflicted with one illness or another. Until then, take good care my fellow warriors, and always, always trust your instincts. You know what’s best for you.

Thank you for reading along and here are a few of my little watercolors from the past week as I continue to follow along with World Watercolor Groups daily prompt on Instagram. If you feel like sharing your thoughts or experiences with any of the above please feel free to comment or message me.

20 thoughts on “Fibromyalgia VS Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  1. I definitely agree FM and CFS are different things. For me, I really think my elevated EBV antibodies highlights what may have caused my CFS. I never heard of a Cipro and FM connection, might have to look into that, I’ve taken Cipro several times because I’m allergic to Sulfa drugs and got antibiotic resistant strains of MRSA and C Diff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was shocking to have a nurse ask me if I’d taken it around the time I was diagnosed with FM. Then he went on to tell me more about Cipro, like how it’s black boxed by the FDA. Scary stuff. My EBV was elevated too at time of CFS diagnoses. Hopefully they’ll figure all this out sooner rather than later! Take good care and hoping today is best as can be for you🌸

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The trouble with a lot of the categorization is that both FM and CFS lie on a spectrum. I know people diagnosed with CFS who say they are fine with 20-30 min rest, unless they are stressed and then they experience a severe flare-up. Conversely, people with FM can also experience debilitating fatigue, in combo with the pain. Different people experience different symptoms with both illnesses and to different intensities. Current research suggests the common thread is in central sensitization, where various networks in the brain/spinal cord are “screwed up.” It is possible that one network is more screwy than the other (fatigue vs pain, for example) in some people, or maybe both are screwy in others, depending on what molecules are out of whack! I think the bottom-line, as you suggested, is to listen to your body and what it’s telling you. Because these illnesses are so personalized, the treatment also has to be equally individualized.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely, great points! I once read that one researcher theorizes that CFS attacks different parts of the CNS for different people, which explains why people are experiencing such varying symptoms. What he said made a lot of sense. He explained how movement of the limbs aggravates the spinal cord and this would explain PEM. Of course I’m doing him terrible justice with my laymen’s terms.😐 Thank you for reading and sharing your insightful experiences. I think the more we share and the more aware we are the more we can stand up for ourselves in medical situations. Hoping your day is best as can be🌸

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Emma (Not Just Tired)

    Really interesting post. I was diagnosed by a Rheumatologist as having CFS with symptoms of Fibromyalgia. I think that’s probably correct. I experience a lot of muscle pain, especially in my neck/arm and other points around my body, but fatigue is definitely my main symptom. Along with all the other weird symptoms that come with it like pins & needles, nerve pain, gut issues etc etc etc!! Thanks for writing this. It’s interesting to hear your experience of both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing🌸 I do look forward to the day when each and everyone of us can receive proper diagnoses and subsequent treatment. It weighs on me that we are trusting our health care system and then being led down paths that make some of us much more ill. I know this topic is a bit controversial 😬 but I just still felt like sharing my personal experiences in hopes that anyone else questioning their diagnoses would keep researching to make sure they are on the correct path. Phew…long winded today😁 Hoping this coming weekend is better for you!🌼

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I can’t count my illnesses brought on by ME at the moment, but it’s a large number. I was crying at my neurologist yesterday and I said I really need your help.
    The Drs response – This is not a rare illness, there are many of you.
    I don’t know how to take that response. I’m back in bed sick. My usual.
    2 years very ill now and I have an attorney requesting a hearing date for disability.
    Why do opiate addicts get more sympathy? I did not do this to myself.

    Rock on Brothers and Sisters
    Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is our issue, no one else will be understanding.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so sorry to hear you’re traveling down this path too. The mistreatment alone, in my experience, has been disheartening. I want to believe we are on the verge of awareness in the medical communities, at the very least.

      I don’t know how I’d process your doctors response either. It certainly doesn’t seem helpful. They seem so robotic when it comes to this illness.

      I’m glad to hear you have an attorney. Hoping it’ll help. I’m in the same boat. It’s 23 months in CA from request date…

      Hoping today brings you a smile or two and tomorrow is better than today. 🌸

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much for sharing the difference between Fibromyalgia and CFS. My husband has experienced pain in his neck and shoulders for so long and I keep thinking that he has Fibromyalgia but doctors do not listen as well as they should to him. I might be wrong but with what he describes to me sounds like I might be right. He is also always tired!
    I know that my issues are due to Multiple Sclerosis and that is definitely frustrating. I really am looking forward to reading more of your posts as this post was so fantastic and had great info! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and I hope you are feeling well! Take care, much love, Alyssa

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words. 🌸 I’m sorry to hear you and your hubby know how it feels to live in pain. A lot of men don’t seek help for fibro, or so I’ve read. They just grin and bear it, which is what I did until I came down with CFS. Hoping he’s able to find relief. Thank you for reading along and hoping you and yours had a lovely Thanksgiving as well! Hoping this finds you as best as possible.🌼


  6. I re-read this again this morning because I had another appointment with the pain management team at the end of last week and she’d discussed with me about going back to the rheumatologist to discuss her belief that I have fibromyalgia, though she was questioning whether it may be CFS. I need to read up more on the symptoms and differences as it hasn’t been until more recently that I’ve been open to either diagnosis; I’ve felt as though both are more end-of-the-road labels, whereby once you have that on your records the powers that be stop looking what what could be wrong, ways to ‘fix’ things, and it’s just a case of managing your condition. Part of moving forward for me now is accepting that there may not be a reason or an explanation as to why I got sick, why things went so downhill so quickly, and that the other conditions I have are being treated but haven’t helped with any of the pain or exhaustion. I need to learn to accept that, be properly diagnosed (which I’m concerned about and will appreciate the distinction between CFS/FM more now thanks to your post), and get the tools to better manage the symptoms on a daily basis. Thanks again for sharing this.x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading along and sharing. I so agree with you, it definitely becomes a management-only situation. That acceptance you refer to hasn’t been a straight line for me. It’s been a twisting, turning journey and I still haven’t made peace with it. I think my mind is constantly searching for something curable to help feel better. Hoping your day is best as can be 🌸

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Susan

    Wow! It’s like I’m reading about my journey, minus the Cipro. I’m currently diagnosed with fm by a rheumatologist but am certain now it is (or was) all along me/cfs. I’m waiting for further diagnosis. Started with bad flu Boxing Day of 2012 when afterwards started getting numbness & pain in various parts of body, extreme brain fog and fatigue. Progressed with dizziness, sleep issues, vision problems, seizure like symptoms, GI issues and so many other symptoms that would make a huge list. To the point now that I can barely work 1 day a week and feel like I have the flu most of the time. To top it off some anonymous person at work was leaving me little notes basically saying I was a hypochondriac. That is the problem with these invisible illnesses: people only see me on my “better” days, not when I’m most ill. I was told to exercise more to help the fm and I ended up getting much worse. Now I think it was a misdiagnosis and it may have been me/cfs all along. When I suggested this to my family doctor, I got the deer in the headlights look and a referral to see an internist. Isn’t it fun seeing all of the different specialists! Thank you for writing this blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been down this road. I can tell you from my own experience exercise helped FM and it made me worse with ME/CFS. Please be careful! There is loads of information on the illnesses out there now but also loads of people with CFS who were told to exercise and ended up much worse. Take good care. 🌸 And Thank you for reading and sharing your experiences. The more people share the more likely we are to spread awareness!!


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