Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia are autoimmune disorders that cause similar symptoms- debilitating pain, exhaustion, poor immune functioning, and a host of other bodily ailments. People have a tendency to use the terms “CFS” and “fibromyalgia” interchangeably, because they share one common trait- chronic pain where there is no clear cause, no injuries or noticeable inflammation.

Fibromyalgia or CFS?

While both chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia involve “phantom” pain and exhaustion, they are still viewed by doctors as separate illnesses that behave differently. In order to diagnose fibromyalgia, for example, your doctor must locate specific “tender points” around your body that produce pain when pressed lightly. If you have been suffering pain for at least three months in at least 11 of the 18 trigger points of the body, then you may have fibromyalgia.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is harder to diagnose, as pain “travels” around the body, and doesn’t follow a predictable pattern. Diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome requires a long process of eliminating other illnesses, and isolating other underlying conditions.

In many cases, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are comorbid illnesses, meaning they occur at the same time.

What causes chronic fatigue syndrome?

Doctors are uncertain what causes CFS or fibromyalgia, but scientists have proposed many theories. Some believe that chronic fatigue syndrome evolves from a genetic abnormality, while others believe the cause to be neurological, a result of overactive neurotransmitters. Scientists have also noted susceptibility for chronic fatigue syndrome among sufferers of physical or psychological trauma, such as child abuse or rape victims. Another theory suggests that chronic fatigue syndrome is an after-effect of a virus.

Tired or fatigued?

Chronic fatigue syndrome is more than just simple tiredness. When you experience true chronic fatigue, you feel overbearingly exhausted from the moment you wake up in the morning, even if you’ve slept the whole night through. Similar to jetlag, chronic fatigue makes you feel disoriented, like you’re in a fog. You feel wiped out, too tired to shower, go to work, or do some household chores. Unlike jetlag, though, chronic fatigue persists, day in, day out. Most people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome have been battling exhaustion for several months, or years.

Other symptoms that may occur with chronic fatigue syndrome are debilitating headaches, migraines, insomnia, digestive disorders, depression, frequent colds and flu symptoms, and tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpits.

Exercising with chronic fatigue syndrome

Starting a workout plan might be the last thing on your mind if you suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, but experts have noticed substantial health benefits when CFS patients adopt a gentle, low impact aerobic regimen into their daily schedule. Twenty or thirty minutes of light exercise per day, at least 4 days per week, increases energy, improves the mood, boosts digestive health, and enriches your quality of sleep. Chronic fatigue syndrome patients should check with their primary doctor or pain management therapist before beginning a new exercise plan.

Treating chronic fatigue syndrome

There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, but your doctor may prescribe certain treatments to ease the pain and manage many of the other ailments. Sometimes, antidepressants help to reduce anxiety and depression and improve the mood. If chronic pain interferes with sleep, then you may receive a prescription for gentle tranquilizers.

Often, vitamin B12 deficiency is comorbid with both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, exacerbating symptoms like tiredness, muscle pain, and moodiness. Since vitamin B12 deficiency blood tests are not always accurate, patients of chronic fatigue syndrome are advised to supplement with vitamin B12 regularly, to ensure that vitamin B12 levels stay normal. Maintaining healthy levels of vitamin B12 ensures maximum energy production, balanced mood, and normal inflammatory response.