What Is The Difference Between Fibromyalgia And Arthritis?

What Is The Difference Between Arthritis And Fibromyalgia?

Although both conditions can cause widespread pain and tiredness, they are two different illnesses. While fibromyalgia is considered an arthritis-related condition, it is not a true form of arthritis because it does not cause tissue inflammation nor does it damage joints or muscles. However some consider it a rheumatic condition because it can make the joints and surrounding tissues painful and sore to use. In general people with fibromyalgia have normal looking X-ray and blood tests results, and family and friends drive them mad by telling them they look fine. A person with arthritis will have abnormal test results and they may also be in visible pain, with swollen or deformed joints.

How They Get Confused: Misdiagnosis
An incorrect diagnosis of arthritis is not uncommon. Occasionally a doctor will mistake fibromyalgia for arthritis. This is because the early stages of arthritis produce symptoms which are similar to symptoms of fibromyalgia. This includes muscle stiffness, aches and tiredness; as well as depression and a general feeling of unwellness. Although fibromyalgia patients have normal X-ray and blood tests results, so can someone with early stages of arthritis if the bones or joints have not yet deteriorated. As arthritis is much more common, the doctor may make this diagnosis without thinking of fibromyalgia. He might say the patient has a ‘touch’ of arthritis, whereas she really has fibromyalgia. The rules for fibromyalgia are a little tougher. If the doctor starts off by thinking the patient might be experiencing fibromyalgia pain, a fibromyalgia diagnosis is never given until all other potential causes of pain, including arthritis, have been ruled out. Personal traumas, going back as far as childhood should also be taken into account, as it may be a trigger for fibro pain. See, can an accident or trauma trigger fibromyalgia?

When You Have Both Illnesses
Very often though, people can have both conditions at the same time. There are different types of arthritis, the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Someone could have fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. It is also possible to have fibromyalgia with rarertypes of arthritis like lupus or polymyalgia rheumatica. The treatment for arthritis, like the treatment for fibromyalgia, involves taking medications, exercising and making lifestyle improvements (by eating a healthy diet or losing weight if necessary). Neither condition can be cured but rather the aim of treatment is to manage symptoms (see our discussion, can fibromyalgia be cured?).

Symptoms Checker

Typical Signs of Fibromyalgia
• Pain in specific points of the body called the fibromyalgia tender points.
• Flu like pain, primarily in the neck and shoulders.
• Depression/anger.
• Feeling anxious.
• Constant extreme fatigue.
• Chronic back pain.
• Bouts of constipation or diarrhea.
• Jaw or facial tenderness (90 percent experience this symptom).
• Headaches and migraines (up to 50 percent of cases).
For more, see what are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Typical Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis/Osteoarthritis
• Pain in affected joints, particularly after repetitive use.
• Stiffness, you may feel creaky first thing in the morning.
• Creaking joint noises, cracking and crunching sounds.
Rheumatoid Arthritis
• Reduced appetite.
• Feeling generally unwell.
• Fatigue.
• Swollen glands.
• General feeling of weakness.

The Main Differences Between Fibromyalgia and Arthritis

Symptom/Sign Fibromyalgia Arthritis
Joint destruction No Yes
Inflammation of joints No Yes
Requires surgery as a treatment Never Sometimes
Blood test can identify the condition No Yes
X-Ray will help identify the condition No Yes
Extreme fatigue Yes Sometimes
Type of pain Muscle pain Joint pain
Depression More common Less common
Headaches More common Less common