Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians

Chronic Fatigue 101

After last week's post of Adrenal fatigue, I received a few questions about what differentiates adrenal fatigue from chronic fatigue.  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as defined by the CDC, is "unexplained, severe fatigue lasting at least six months that is not improved by bed rest."  From looking at various sources, anywhere from 1 million to 2.5 million Americans have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, although many may not have been diagnosed.  The major symptoms are:

-Perpetual fatigue (which is a symptom for many other illnesses)

-Cognitive challenges/impairment (foggy brain, inability to focus, etc.)

-Sore throat

-Enlarged lymph nodes

-Joint pain (arthralgia)

-Muscle Pain (myalgia)

-Headaches (often migraines)

-Sleeplessness or sleep not provided restfulness

What makes this disease so challenging to diagnose is that there are no known causes and there are many correlations with other diseases.  Some diagnosed with CFS also experience fibromylagia (chronic pain and hypersensitivity to pressure), tempromandibular joint disorder, pelvic pain, or/and irritable bowel syndrome.  In addition, general fatigue is also a symptom of many other larger issues, which could include mono (or other viral infections), depression, hypothyroidism, lupus, diabetes, celiac, and more.  One of the key differences between adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome is that CFS is recognized as a "disorder" by the CDC, and is recognized universally unlike adrenal fatigue.  Despite that, the causes are unknown, there is no known cure, and the disease can often be stigmatized as something in the patient's mind (psychosomatic).  This terrific article from the Atlantic illustrates the complex issues behind diagnosing CFS and why the disease isn't always easily spotted.  This article from the Washington Post tells the experience of being diagnosed with CFS and the difficulty (impossibility) of finding a medical professional who can help.