Is CFS Different than Fibromyalgia?

In short, yes, CFS is different than fibromyalgia – however, there are many reasons why the two may be confused or misdiagnosed. The two are somewhat related in the sense that they both have a shared symptom, debilitating fatigue.


Diagnosing Your Fatigue

If you have trouble sleeping or never feel rested after sleeping, and this problem persists for longer than six months, you likely have a medical problem that goes beyond simple tiredness. This does not, however, guarantee that you have chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia.

The first thing your doctor will do is test you for other conditions, such as anemia, a thyroid problem, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and even multiple sclerosis. Both chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are hard to diagnose, so this will be a process of elimination. For a positive diagnosis of fibromyalgia, you must have symptoms for at least 3 months, and it’s 6 months or longer or chronic fatigue.

You could test positive for something else and still have CFS, or fibromyalgia, or both. To help your doctor during this process, become familiar with the symptoms of both conditions, and then keep a log of what symptoms you experience, along with the possible triggers for them.

Symptoms of CFS and Fibromyalgia

There are many shared symptoms between the two, but there are still symptoms that are unique to each. Below are lists for all three.


  • Sore throat
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain (without swelling or redness)
  • Debilitating exhaustion 24 hours or more after physical or mental exertion

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

  • Pain (localized or all over the body)
  • Stiffness upon waking
  • Muscle cramps, knots, or weakness
  • Balance problems
  • Itching or burning skin
  • Raynaud’s syndrome

Shared Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Persistent exhaustion after sleep or other sleep problems
  • Short-term memory loss or other cognitive problems
  • Eating or digestive disorders
  • Headaches or migraines that don’t fit your usual pattern

The First Step to Treating Your Fatigue

Whether you have CFS or fibromyalgia or both, one of the key things to do first is treat your sleeping problem. While sleeping pills are easy to prescribe, they are not suited for chronic sleep issues. Doctors recommend other means of getting back to a normal sleep pattern.

During diagnosis, you may have been involved in a sleep study to test for sleep apnea. Maybe you have respiratory problems or enlarged tonsils. All of these can be treated separately from your fatigue.

Or, it may be that your sleep environment is not restful enough.

Remove distractions such as pets, TV, and lights, and always do something relaxing right before you try to sleep.

Once your sleep improves, so will your mood and general health, and if you have pain associated with fibromyalgia, it will decrease. Then you and your doctor can proceed with whatever treatment plan is best for you.