Under the term Fibro-Fatigue there are many illnesses with similar symptoms. Some people may be suffering from more than one as well as some of the co-existing conditions. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one of these illnesses ends and the other begins. First, let’s clarify a few terms.
Syndrome vs. Disease
A syndrome is a collection of signs and symptoms known to frequently appear together but without a known cause. A disease is characterized usually by an identifiable group of signs and symptoms and a known cause. In short, one has a known cause (disease) and the other doesn’t (syndrome). Fibro & Fatigue are syndromes. Lyme Disease, for example, is a disease at the cause is known.
So realize that while the term “syndrome” sometimes seems to belittle the illness, it’s really just a classification based on what the medical establishment understands about it. When someone throws out the “it’s just a syndrome” argument, they should take a closer look at what they’re really saying. It doesn’t mean your illness is any less real or serious than a disease; it means that it’s less understood.
For those of us with these syndromes, it often means many doctors don’t know much about them and effective treatments can be hard to find.
Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS):
Fibromyalgia is derived from the Greek “algia”, meaning pain, “myo”, referring to muscle, and the Latin “fibro” meaning the connective tissue of tendons and ligaments.
Fibromyalgia is most definitely very real and can be a source of substantial disability.
In 1987 the AMA recognized FMS as a true illness and major cause of disability. The American College of Rheumatology, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health have all accepted FMS as a legitimate clinical entity.
In addition to specific tender points, the essential symptom of FMS is pain, fatigue, soft-tissue swelling and depression.
Here are the main symptoms:
- Widespread pain. Soreness, tenderness, achiness and muscle pain that can last for days, which then finally dissipates and then returns again.
- Sleep problems. Not being able to get to sleep or waking up during the night and not being able to get back to sleep or otherwise restless, disturbed sleep and thus disrupting your ability to get the needed deep sleep that is so vital. This of course contributes to feeling tired and un-refreshed as well as disruption of the body’s healing processes and production of vital hormones.
- Fatigue/Exhaustion, which may or may not be connected to the poor sleep. In some cases even despite good sleep one can experience overwhelming tiredness.
- Difficulty with short-term memory or concentration, known as brain fog or fibro-fog.
- Depression, irritability, nervousness, anxiety
Other common signs and symptoms include:
- Blurred vision or changes in vision.
- Dry and painful eyes.
- Dry membranes in the nose and/or mouth.
- Painful menstrual periods.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating are often found in people with fibromyalgia.
- Recurrent infections – bladder, urinary tract, eye infections, etc.
- Dry, itchy skin or skin irritations or rash.
A “flare” is a term that refers to the various symptoms of Fibromyalgia flaring up for a matter of hours or more often for two or three days.
A flare usually follows a period of stress, either emotionally or physically, or some other factor that can trigger a flare up. Some examples of triggers could be:
- a night or several nights of very poor sleep
- over-exertion in some physical activity
- working for extended hours
- an increase in caffeine, sugar or alcohol intake
- a long drive or flight
- a long period of time on your feet wearing new or uncomfortable shoes
- a known or unknown infection
These are some examples of things that can cause a temporary worsening of conditions.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or “CFS” is also at times called Myalgic Encephalopathy or “ME”, Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome or “PVFS” and Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome or “CFIDS”
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME is a set of symptoms with severe and almost unrelenting fatigue being most predominant. The fatigue can worsen with physical activity or stress, but it doesn’t improve with more rest.
Some of the more common symptoms are: poor sleep, difficulties with short-term memory or concentration, exhaustion after minimal exertion, recurrent infections and bowel disorders.
CFS and FM are both characterized by unexplained extreme fatigue, achiness, difficulty concentrating, and poor sleep. The main difference is that patients with FM have more severe pain, and those suffering with CFS find fatigue is their greatest symptom. Often times CFS and FM have very similar root causes.
Chronic fatigue syndrome has nine official signs and symptoms:
- Decrease in memory or concentration faculties
- Sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes in neck and/or armpits
- Unexplained muscle pain
- Pain that may move from one joint to another without swelling or redness
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exertion
Fibro & Fatigue can both be quite debilitating at times. These symptoms exist in varying degrees in each individual.
Here is an extensive talk given by Dr. Spurlock on the topics of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
There are numerous other physical conditions that may accompany FMS and CFS, such as:
A) Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome: Very often with the above listed illnesses someone can also have Chronic Myofascial Pain (CMP) as a co-existing condition. Myofascial pain is probably the most common cause of musculoskeletal pain in medical practice. Fascia is the thin, translucent film that wraps around muscle tissue, blood vessels, nerves, lymph glands and even your organs. The outer layer of fascia is attached to the underside of your skin. Capillary channels and lymph vessels run through this layer and so do many nerves. If this layer of fascia is healthy, then your skin can move fluidly over the surface of your muscles.
In CMP this fascia is often stuck and this is where there is great potential to store excess fluids and metabolites. The deeper layer of this fascia covers your internal organs and surrounds the blood vessels, lymph vessels and nerves. Changes of pressure due to the compression by tightening myofascia can affect the cells that lie within the blood, lymph vessels and nerves. Another form of fascia surrounds and protects the spinal cord and contains the spinal fluid. It is also connected to the membranes that surround your brain and together they hold and protect your craniosacral system. It is the tightening of this fascia that restricts blood flow.
B) A compromised immune system resulting in unknown infections also often accompany FMS and CFS. These can include bacterial infections, viruses or viral infections, yeast infections and even parasites. Urinary tract/bladder infections, sinusitis, eye infections, numerous viruses, walking pneumonia and many other examples of infections can result from a compromised immune system that often exists with chronic pain and fatigue sufferers.
C) Irritable Bowel Syndrome is also common. This is where the muscles in the gut contract and relax at the wrong time resulting in gas, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea.
D) Restless Leg(s) Syndrome (RLS): RLS is a neurological disorder characterized by throbbing, pulling, creeping, or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move them. Symptoms occur primarily at night when a person is relaxing or at rest and can get worse during the night.
E) TMJ: The temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are in front of each ear. It lets you move your jaw up and down and side-to-side, so that you can talk, chew, and yawn. Problems with your jaw and the muscles in your face that control it are known as Temporomandibular Disorders(TMD). However you may hear it called TMJ, after the joint itself.
These are by no means all of the symptoms and there is far more information on each. This is only to serve as a short overview of some of the more common one.
After reading all of these over you can see that there are many symptoms that overlap and often it is hard to tell what is causing what or where one disease/syndrome or condition ends and another one begins.
There is Hope
Although symptoms may be severe and the amount of confusion may be overwhelming, don’t despair! Renewed Vitality health care providers are experienced at investigating and tearing apart the symptoms and clues through advanced, thorough and well researched methods. Restoring patients who felt they were once on the brink back to health and vigor is a commonplace occurrence at Renewed Vitality. Let us help you get your life back!