The Differences Between Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

Some believe fibromyalgia is a type of arthritis. This is not the case. Both fibromyalgia (FMS) and arthritis are forms of Rheumatism, a medical condition that impairs the joints and/or soft tissues and causes chronic pain. While both are chronic pain disorders, fibromyalgia and arthritis are two very different things.

Symptoms of Arthritis:

In arthritis patients, the discomfort is due to inflammation and damage in the joints of the body. Those with arthritis also experience:

  • Atrophy in the muscles
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Limited ability to move with and without assistance.
  • Signs that other joints are painful or swollen (an indication of rheumatoid arthritis)
  • A grating feeling or sound (crepitus) with movement
  • Pain when pressure is placed on the joint or the joint is moved

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia: The cause of pain in those with fibromyalgia is unknown. However, it is important to note that unlike arthritis, the pain is not caused by inflammation or swelling, and there is no damage to any tissue due to this disorder.

  • Chronic pain that is experienced on both sides of the body, above and below the waist.
  • 18 tender points throughout the body that are common to many who suffer from FMS
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • Trouble concentrating and memory (fibro fog)
  • Morning stiffness

Diagnosing Arthritis

Some tests that can be used to diagnose arthritis are:Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test to check levels of antibodies in the bloodSampling the synovial fluid, which surrounds and lubricates the jointsComplete blood counts Creatinine to monitor for underlying kidney diseaseX-rays to check for deterioration in the bone massDiagnosing FibromyalgiaThere are no medical tests that specifically diagnose FMS. Doctors should tests for other conditions to exclude them before diagnosing someone with FMS. But in order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a patient must be experiencing: Pain in at least 11 of 18 of the tender points common to those with FMSPain that lasts at least 3 monthsWhat's Behind Arthritis: in its two most common formsRheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own lining on the joints. This causes swelling, pain, and stiffness. Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis in which the inflammation arises because cartilage becomes damaged or worn, usually just from the wear and tear of everyday life. This condition usually comes with age and most often affects the fingers, knees, and hips. Though typically found in the joints, it may also affect internal organs and systems.What's Behind Fibromyalgia:
It is not known for sure what causes the chronic pain in fibromyalgia (FMS). Recent studies have led researchers to believe that the cause of FMS lies in the central nervous system, in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland (HPA) axis. The HPA Axis is a system of interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland which coordinates the physical and physiological response to external and internal stimuli, including stress. It also controls hormone reactions in the body, and since those with FMS process pain differently and experience hormonal imbalances, it is a logical hypothesis that abnormalities in the HPA axis could be the cause of FMS.Treatment for Arthritis Pain medicationsCorticosteroids (cortisol injections, affect glucose levels in the body) Cortisol (related to stress response, mobilize energy)Heat therapy (paraffin wax, ultrasound or moist heat) to increase blood flow and flexibility in the joint Cold therapy (cold packs, cold-water soaks, over-the-counter sprays and ointments) to numb the nerves and relieve inflammation.Surgery Options for Arthritis:Remove the diseased or damaged joint lining Realign the joints Fuse bones, to prevent joint motion and relieve joint pain Replace the entire joint Treatment for Fibromyalgia
Opiates: mimic the body's endorphinsNon-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen belong in this category. They can treat muscle pain, tension headachesSteroids: reduce pain by blocking the synthesis of prostaglandinsAntidepressant: cause the release of endorphinsMuscle relaxantsAcupunctureYogaTranscutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): uses mild electrical impulses delivered to the skinSurgery Options for Those with Fibromyalgia:Implanted Dorsal Column Stimulator: Like the TENS, it delivers mild electric currents to soothe pain. Spinal Infusion: : involves the delivery of low doses of medications, like morphine, through a catheter inserted in the spine Both of these disorders cause chronic pain that can severely limit your day to day activity and enjoyment. But they each have very different causes, and thus different treatment options. Through lab and blood tests, the right condition can be identified. The sooner you begin seeing a physician about your chronic pain, the sooner you can pinpoint the problem, and begin the process of getting back to your active self.
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