Separating Fibromyalgia From Arthritis

Posted on 08/22/2016

Are fibromyalgia and arthritis related?

Although both conditions can cause excessive pain and discomfort, fibromyalgia is not connected to arthritis. Arthritis actually is a term used to describe joint pain or joint disease — and it can refer to more than 100 different medical conditions. Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion.


According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America, with more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis. 

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body's tissues, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels.

Fibromyalgia, however, does not cause inflammation or damage to the joints, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

The Mayo Clinic describes fibromyalgia as a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.

Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way the brain processes pain signals.

Fibromyalgia symptoms can start after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In some people, symptoms gradually accumulate over time, with no single triggering event.

The National Fibromyalgia Foundation lists fibromyalgia symptoms as:

  • pain
  • fatigue
  • sleep problems
  • irritable bowel and bladder
  • headaches and migraines
  • restless legs syndrome
  • impaired memory and concentration
  • skin sensitivities and rashes
  • dry eyes and mouth
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • ringing in the ears
  • dizziness
  • vision problems
  • Raynaud's Syndrome
  • neurological symptoms
  • impaired coordination

Because fibromyalgia can cause chronic pain and fatigue similar to arthritis, some people confuse it with a rheumatic condition.

We often see patients with fibromyalgia symptoms who assume it is an arthritic condition. Fibromyalgia is not a form of arthritis (joint disease). It does not cause inflammation or damage to joints, muscles or other tissues. However, because fibromyalgia can cause chronic pain and fatigue similar to arthritis, some people may think of it as a rheumatic condition. As a result, often a rheumatologist detects this disease (and rules out other rheumatic diseases).

Your primary care physician can provide all the other care and treatment of fibromyalgia that you need.

Nobody should live with chronic pain. The staff at Rheumatology Associates, P.C. wants you to get back to feeling normal and leading an active life.