How does Fibromyalgia differ from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Fibromyalgia vs Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) have many symptoms in common. Research has found that there is a fine line between these 2 syndromes and the Arthritis Foundation says that between 50 to 70 percent of those with FMS fit the criteria for CFS.

The main difference between FMS and CFS are the symptoms of pain and fatigue - FMS is thought to have more widespread pain and CFS more fatigue.
When diagnosing CFS a doctor should expect a few differences.
FMS diagnosed with:
  • 11 to 18 tender points felt on the body
  • chronic widespread pain
  • sufferers often reporting having a specific traumatic event or long term stress prior to their symptoms commencing
CFS diagnosed with: 
  •  a low-grade fever, swollen glands or a sore throat 
  • chronic fatigue which is an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion that does not go away
  • sufferers of CFS tracing their symptoms back to a flu or viral infection 
is it Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Do the differences really matter? In my opinion, and I am not a doctor, the differences do not matter because there is no cure or magic pill for either disease only treatment of the symptoms. The treatments that are tried are very similar and include lifestyle changes such as pacing, sleep therapy and gentle exercise, pain medications and antidepressants.  You can read about many of these treatment options on this site by looking through the list of articles.

This video aims to explain ME/CFS which includes Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome and help sufferers understand the illness and friends and family understand what their loved ones are going through. As you watch it you will see that Fibromyalgia symptoms are very similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms:
  • insomnia
  • unrefreshed sleep
  • post exertional malaise (tiredness after exercise)
  • pain after exercise
  • headaches
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • brainfog
  • concentration problems
  • short term memory problems
  • muscle weakness
  • sensory overload
  • sensitivity to light
  • lack of energy


  1. You are the first person I have seen saying Fibro is triggered by long term stress. I kept telling people I didn't have the huge traumatic event and could not pinpoint what had triggered it. I do however totally agree with it being caused by stress :0)

    1. Interesting Jools, according to University of Maryland Medical Center article many experts believe that fibromyalgia is not a disease, but is rather a chronic pain condition brought on by several abnormal body responses to stress
      I personally always think of stress as something that builds up over time.

    2. Totally agree that it builds and builds and this is just how my body coped with it, or not as the case may be :0) xx

  2. I agree with you, Jools. I too didn't have a huge traumatic event, just lots of stress. I'm blessed to have a great family that helps to relieve as much stress as possible at home. It helps, but I still feel bad for not doing it myself like I used to be able to do.

    1. I hate not being able to do things for myself I think that is the worse bit of the whole thing :0) x


Thanks for your input