Chronic Pain Syndrome Vs. Fibromyalgia

woman with herniated disc Apr30th 2024

There are a few broad categories of pain or related conditions that contain multiple distinct sub-categories, and the realm of chronic pain is one of the single best examples here. The term “chronic pain” can actually refer to a number of different specific conditions, and two of the most notable here are chronic pain syndrome (CPS) and fibromyalgia. 

At ImPackt Physical Therapy, we’re here to provide quality physical therapy programs to patients across Riverton, South Jordan and nearby areas, with physical therapists who provide treatments ranging from deep tissue massage and other manual therapies to deep tissue lasers, percussion therapy and numerous other options. Chronic pain relief is one of our top services, and it covers every possible underlying condition that could be contributing to the issues. Here’s a look at how CPS and fibromyalgia compare, why they’re sometimes confused, and what to know about each of them and how they’re treated. 

Chronic Pain Syndrome (CPS)

Much of the occasional confusion with these terms, and with others in the chronic pain realm as well, stems back to CPS and its name. While chronic pain syndrome is actually a specific condition that has direct causes and symptoms, some tend to assume that this term is actually just an umbrella term that covers all chronic pain cases. This isn’t the case at all – CPS is its own condition, and one with a few potential underlying causes.

So what exactly is CPS? In short, it’s defined as any type of chronic or persistent pain that doesn’t have an obvious source or cause. It’s also known by some other names in certain medical circles, including amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome, diffuse pains of unknown origin and a few others. Regardless of the name used, CPS is characterized by chronic wide-spread pain throughout the body that persists for at least three months or more. In some cases, this pain may be accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances and mood changes.

Some potential underlying causes of CPS include physical trauma, infectious processes, genetic predispositions, or even psychological factors such as stress and anxiety. In many cases, a combination of these factors may be at play.

Another understandable reason why some get confused about CPS is its wide range of symptoms. These can include everything from anxiety and depression to sleep issues, irritability, social concerns, aching muscles, joint stiffness and more. Roughly a quarter of all people who experience chronic pain can be described to have CPS – but this means that 75% of all chronic pain patients suffer from something else.


Another specific chronic pain condition, but one that tends to contain less confusion than CPS, is fibromyalgia. This is a disorder that also features chronic pain in various areas of the body – including muscles, tendons and ligaments. 

Fibromyalgia may have an even wider range of symptoms than CPS, including things like insomnia, hyperalgesia (sensitivity to pain), allodynia (sensitivity to touch), light sensitivity, brain fog, tingling or burning sensations, and more. It’s worth noting that fibromyalgia is not a progressive or degenerative disorder, meaning it does not worsen over time.

While scientists remain unsure of the causes of fibromyalgia, there’s some evidence that it could be due to issues with pain signals that are sent and received by and from the nervous system. There are also theories that suggest fibromyalgia may be linked to certain infections, physical or emotional trauma, or even genetics.

Fibromyalgia is much more prevalent in women than in men, and it tends to develop between the ages of 20 and 50. Though there’s no cure for fibromyalgia, treatments such as physical therapy, medications, stress management techniques, and lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Similarities and Key Differences

As you’ve likely noted from reading to this point, it’s true that CPS and fibromyalgia have a number of similarities. Both involve chronic pain that can affect the entire body and may be accompanied by a range of other symptoms. However, there are also key differences between the two conditions.

For one, CPS is typically caused by specific illness, injury or other health issues – fibromyalgia, on the other hand, can seemingly arise out of nowhere. Additionally, while CPS is defined as persistent pain in multiple areas of the body for at least three months, fibromyalgia requires widespread pain and sensitivity for at least three months along with several other symptoms.

There are also major differences in the diagnosis of these two conditions. While CPS involves specific damage or health conditions shown on tests, fibromyalgia is only diagnosed by ruling out other potential causes of chronic pain and identifying specific areas of tenderness.

Treatment Options

When it comes to treatment, the approach for CPS and fibromyalgia may be similar in some ways, but there are also differences based on the individual patient’s needs. Physical therapy is often a key aspect of treatment for both conditions, as it can help improve muscle strength and flexibility, reduce pain and stiffness, and improve overall mobility.

Other potential treatments for both CPS and fibromyalgia include medications to manage symptoms, stress management techniques, exercise programs tailored to the individual’s needs, and more. In some cases, a combination of treatments may be necessary to effectively manage chronic pain.

While CPS and fibromyalgia are often confused due to their similar symptoms, it’s important to understand the key differences between these two conditions. At ImPackt Physical Therapy, our team of experts is dedicated to providing individualized treatment plans for each patient’s unique needs. If you’re experiencing chronic pain, don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a consultation with us today, whether you’re in Riverton, South Jordan or any nearby area.

Request An Appointment