Doctors notepad with fibromyalgia written on it

Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that is often misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and confused with other conditions because of its symptoms.1,2

Joint pain and fatigue could be attributed to fibromyalgia, but these could also be symptoms of arthritis or another chronic condition instead. Other confusing fibromyalgia symptoms include changes in a person’s sleep, mood, and memory.

The purpose of this article is to describe the most common fibromyalgia symptoms and provide information about the difference between fibromyalgia and arthritis. It will also address the issue of experiencing fibromyalgia and arthritis together as comorbidities and how to manage this type of pain and discomfort.

What is Fibromyalgia?

For anyone wondering exactly what is fibromyalgia, this is a musculoskeletal disorder in which pain sensations are amplified due to how pain signals are processed in the brain.3,4 It can develop slowly over time or be triggered by stress, an infection, or surgery. Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men,5 but there is still a great need for fibromyalgia research to undercover the disease’s causes and any potential cures.

Common fibromyalgia symptoms include dull aching pain that lasts for several months or longer.3,4 It is typically felt all over the body in various parts. In addition to bodily pain, individuals with fibromyalgia may also experience fatigue and a mental fog. People with fibromyalgia often suffer from other coexisting conditions at the same time, such as irritable bowel syndrome, painful menstrual cramps, anxiety, and depression.4,5,7

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Difference between Fibromyalgia and Arthritis

People who have both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.6,7 These arthritis conditions are risk factors of fibromyalgia, but the causes and symptoms of these conditions are significantly different.

For example, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder that makes the immune system attack the joints.9 RA and fibromyalgia progress very differently as disorders as well. While fibromyalgia usually involves constant pain,8 RA flares up periodically and involves inflammation issues.9 Fibromyalgia isn’t an inflammatory condition, but rather one of the central nervous system that causes abnormal sensory processing.

Also, osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects the cartilage in a person’s joints.10 When someone has osteoarthritis, this lack of cartilage can make the joints rub together and result in pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion.11 This distinguishes osteoarthrosis from fibromyalgia, which doesn’t typically involve progressive joint deterioration.

Finally, psoriatic arthritis differs from fibromyalgia in that its pain is typically accompanied by scaly patches on the skin, swollen toes or fingers, and a family history of psoriasis.12

Experiencing Fibromyalgia and Arthritis Together

Although fibromyalgia and arthritis are very different medical conditions, they can still occur in the body at the same time.6 This coexistence can make the symptoms of each condition worse, especially joint pain on both sides of the body, fatigue, and depression. Over-the-counter pain relievers, pain relief creams like JointFlex, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and COX-2 inhibitors may be used to treat patients with fibromyalgia and arthritis together. Meanwhile, reducing daily stress, getting an adequate amount of quality sleep, and exercising a little every day goes a long way in managing symptoms of fibromyalgia and arthritis together.

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1. Di Franco, M., Iannuccelli. C., Bazzichi, L., Atzeni, F., Consensi, A., Salaffi, F., Pietropaolo, M. et. al. (2011 November-December). Misdiagnosis in fibromyalgia: A multicentre study. Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology, 29, S104-8. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from National Center of Biotechnology Information
2. Avoiding incorrect diagnosis of fibromyalgia syndrome. Rheumatology Network. Retrieved October 19, 2018 from
3. Biundo, J. J. (2018 April). Fibromyalgia. The Merck Manual: Consumer Version. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from,-joint,-and-muscle-disorders/muscle,-bursa,-and-tendon-disorders/fibromyalgia.
4. Fibromyalgia. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from
5. Fibromyalgia. Office on Women’s Health. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from
6. RA with a side of fibromyalgia. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from
7. Fibromyalgia. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from
8. Fibromyalgia overview. Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from
9. Kontzias, A. (2017 July). Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The Merck Manual. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from,-joint,-and-muscle-disorders/joint-disorders/rheumatoid-arthritis-ra.
10. Kontzias, A. (2017 July). Osteoarthritis (OA). The Merck Manual. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from,-joint,-and-muscle-disorders/joint-disorders/osteoarthritis-oa.
11. Osteoarthritis. American College of Rheumatology. Retrieved October 22, 2018 from
12. Psoriatic arthritis. MedlinePlus. Retrieved October 22, 2018 from