Low Back Pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

Quincy AdamChronic Pain Learn

Chronic pain. Medical Concept
Although still in the early stages of study, the connections between chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia are becoming clearer, and successful treatment methods are showing promising results. Since both CFS and fibromyalgia share a number of common symptoms, including lower back pain, particular lifestyle changes are likely to improve both conditions.

Main Differences Between CFS and Fibromyalgia

At first glance, CFS and fibromyalgia may appear to be the same disorder, but fibromyalgia sufferers generally complain of pain being the most challenging factor while CFS tends to leave patients feeling lethargic on a day-to-day basis.

Specific symptoms to fibromyalgia include:

  • Widespread, chronic pain and stiffness throughout the body with a set of known “tender points” which are very uncomfortable to the touch.
  • Symptoms that began shortly after a traumatic event such as a physical injury or emotional shock.
  • Elevated levels of the neurotransmitter known as Substance P (responsible for the transmission of pain).

CFS sufferers show symptoms such as:

  • Symptom onset following a viral infection such as influenza or mononucleosis.
  • Debilitating fatigue which has continued for at least six months and is accompanied by a sore throat and/or other signs of systemic illness such as muscle pain and inflammatory responses throughout the body (fevers, swollen glands, etc.)
  • Elevated levels of the cellular antiviral enzyme known as RNaseL.

Similarities Shared by CFS and Fibromyalgia Patients

Plenty of overlap exists between the symptoms of CFS and fibromyalgia patients (the majority of whom tend to be female), including:

  • Frequent episodes of poor sleep and/or sleep disorders which tend to leave sufferers feeling unrefreshed upon waking
  • Cognitive disorders such as impaired memory function, inability to concentrate, anxiety and depression
  • Headaches and/or dizziness
  • Bowel issues such as bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Low back pain

Because of the number of similarities between CFS and fibromyalgia, a significant improvement or elimination of the symptoms from both disorders may occur after a treatment regimen designed to address the syndromes simultaneously is adopted. Back pain, in particular, may respond to regular chiropractic treatment (and other complimentary therapies such as acupuncture) independent of treatments more specific to the primary CFS and fibromyalgia symptoms.

Improved Sleep is Critical for CFS and Fibromyalgia Patients

Healing takes place within the body while you sleep, making adequate deep sleep critical to relieving CFS and fibromyalgia symptoms. Lifestyle changes that can improve sleep patterns include avoidance of caffeine and other stimulants and creating a sleep environment free of lights, noise or other sources of distraction such as an alarm clock (which may encourage worrisome thoughts and/or anxiety). Checking for and correcting any disorders that may interfere with sleep (such as snoring and sleep apnea) is also important.

A gentle exercise routine, such as walking or swimming, may also help nighttime sleep patterns and reduce pain. In addition to helping your sleep, stretching exercises such as yoga can be very relaxing and can improve flexibility, as well as reduce pain symptoms in some cases. Adopting these types of changes in your day-to-day routine can improve your overall quality and quantity of healing sleep; but if you still need help, a low dose of antidepressant medication may be recommended by your doctor.

Dietary Changes and Specific Supplements May Help

In addition to making lifestyle changes to improve sleep, patients willing to commit to a strict hypoglycemic diet and supplement regimen high in substances known to reduce inflammation may see improvements in symptoms. Studies have shown that supplementation of Omega-3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as well as conjugated linoleic acid, magnesium, and malic acid may be of benefit in managing neuropathic pain in some patients.1 Talking to a nutritionist about which foods are the best sources for these nutrients is great, but before supplementing, speak to your doctor about safe dosages.

Talk to Your Doctor Today

Much can be done to help sufferers of both CFS and fibromyalgia reduce symptoms, including low back pain. Making lifestyle changes for better sleep, adopting an appropriate exercise routine, watching your diet and/or supplementing your diet with inflammation-fighting Omega 3 fatty acids are options to discuss with your health care provider. Schedule an appointment today with your doctor for help developing a protocol that will get you well on your way to improving your overall quality and enjoyment of life.


1 “Omega-3 for Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Potential Benefits.” http://chronicfatigue.about.com/od/supplement1/p/Omega-3-Fatty-Acids-For-Fibromyalgia-And-Chronic-Fatigue-Syndrome.htm. Accessed April 18, 2016.