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Osteoarthritis and Fibromyalgia Similarities

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  • Synopsis: Article takes a look at some of the similarities between osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia symptoms and pain - Published: 2014-11-03 (Rev. 2017-01-24). For further information pertaining to this article contact: Thomas C. Weiss at Disabled World.

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"As a person with a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, it is sometimes difficult to be sure the diagnosis is entirely correct because of the similarities between fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis."

The prospect of another diagnosis is something that many people who already experience forms of disabilities face, myself included. Just the other day, a person looked at me and said, 'Tom, what if the osteoarthritis you have isn't just osteoarthritis? What if you also have fibromyalgia' I just kind of sat for a minute and pondered and then told my friend, 'whatever it is called, it is painful and the label is one thing.' When it comes down to it, the label of what I am experiencing is the realm of doctors and other health care providers. What I am looking for is some relief and an understanding of what is going on.

People who experience ongoing symptoms of fatigue, pain and muscle stiffness might wonder if they actually have fibromyalgia. Achieving a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is not always the easiest, partly because a number of fibromyalgia symptoms are also found in other illnesses. Osteoarthritis is often times confused with fibromyalgia and may at times occur concurrently with the syndrome. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that is responsible for causing intense joint pain and stiffness.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis, it affects millions of people in America alone. Osteoarthritis is also referred to as, 'degenerative joint disease,' and is an illness that affects the condition of the cartilage in a person's joints. Cartilage is located between your joints to help facilitate movement. Without cartilage, your joints rub together and cause stiffness, pain and impaired range of motion. Osteoarthritis occurs when your joint cartilage starts to break down. One friend of mine referred to it as the, 'middle-aged plague,' because so many of us who are in middle-age experience osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis and Fibromyalgia, Shared Symptoms

Osteoarthritis is often confused with fibromyalgia because it shares some of the same symptoms. For example, overlapping symptoms a person may experience include muscle pain, limited range of motion, as well as stiffness in the morning. At one point, fibromyalgia was actually considered to be a form of arthritis, which added to the difficulty of making the correct diagnosis.

When you consider your diagnosis, it is important to recognize the minor differences between these two forms of illnesses. If you have fibromyalgia, it is likely that you will experience more widespread pain. Osteoarthritis pain tends to be localized to the area of the joint or joints affected. It is possible; however, for a person to have both fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis at the same time. Between 10-15% of people with osteoarthritis also have fibromyalgia.

Who Gets What Types of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is something that can be classified according to the specific place in a person's body it affects. Osteoarthritis commonly affects people in certain areas. As someone who has osteoarthritis, it is interesting that all of the following areas are ones that affect me personally:

  • Hips
  • Feet
  • Spine
  • Knees
  • Hands

Anyone can get osteoarthritis, to be plain. The condition can affect both women and men, and has no regard whatsoever for a person's age, background and so forth. There are some risk factors that can increase a person's likelihood of developing osteoarthritis. These risk factors include:

  • Being obese
  • Being female
  • Prior joint trauma
  • Being over the age of 65

A stunning fact about osteoarthritis is that half of the population will develop osteoarthritis by the time they reach the age of 65. Personally, I have met more people in service-related occupations who have developed a form of arthritis than I can remember. Nurses, nursing assistants, firefighters, police officers and others who are on their feet and running around all day may also be at increased risk of developing a form of arthritis - but that is my personal observation.

So What Causes Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is generally caused by age. As a person ages, wear and tear on their tendons, joints and cartilage starts to take a toll. Water starts to build up in a person's cartilage and the protein inside their cartilage degenerates. Over time, cartilage is worn away inside certain joints. At times, osteoarthritis is caused by other illnesses such as:

  • Gout
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Trauma or injury

For me it was repeated heavy lifting, wear and tear, and finally - injury. The story is most likely very familiar to many people who experience osteoarthritis. The results are some not so fun symptoms that must be dealt with on a daily basis. These symptoms vary from person to person and depend on which joints are affected. Most people with osteoarthritis experience symptoms that include:

  • Joint pain
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Pain that worsens later in the day
  • Stiffness after periods of rest/inactivity
  • Redness, swelling or hotness in the joints

There is no cure for osteoarthritis; however, there are steps a person can take to help limit disability and slow down the degenerative process. Treatment for osteoarthritis usually takes a multifaceted approach. The approaches may include things such as:

  • Exercise
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Weight management
  • Occupational therapy

Doctors simply love to whip out a prescription pad and write up pain relief for osteoarthritis. When it comes to exercise, walking is something that I have found works best - in moderation and NOT on linoleum or cement flooring.

Fibromyalgia

fig 1. The location of the 9 paired tender points that comprise the 1990 American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia.
fig 1. The location of the 9 paired tender points that comprise the 1990 American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is the most common musculoskeletal condition after osteoarthritis. Despite this fact, fibromyalgia is often times misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Its characteristics include widespread muscle and joint pain, fatigue and additional symptoms. Fibromyalgia may lead to social isolation and depression as well.

A syndrome is a set of symptoms; when they exist together, they imply the presence of a specific disease or a greater chance of developing the disease. With fibromyalgia syndrome, symptoms such as the following commonly occur together. These symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Tender points
  • Widespread pain
  • Incapacitating fatigue
  • Decreased pain threshold

More than 12 million people in America alone experience fibromyalgia. The majority of these people are women who are between the ages of 25 and 60. Women are 10 times more likely to experience fibromyalgia than men are.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia causes a person to ache all over. They may have symptoms of severe fatigue, even after they have just woken up. Specific tender points on their body might be painful to touch. The person may experience swelling, disturbances in deep-level or restful sleep, as well as depression or mood disturbances.

People with fibromyalgia may feel like they have been overworked or pulled. They will feel that way even without exercise or another cause. At times, their muscles burn, twitch, or have deep stabbing pain. Some people with fibromyalgia have pain and aches around the joints in their neck, shoulders, back and hips. The pain and aches make it hard for them to exercise or sleep. Additional symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Stiffness
  • Incontinence
  • Chronic headaches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Abdominal pain-processing
  • Hypersensitivity to heat or cold
  • Dryness in nose, mouth and eyes
  • Numbness or tingling in the feet and fingers

Fibromyalgia may cause signs and feelings similar to osteoarthritis, tendinitis and bursitis. Some experts include it in this group of arthritis and disorders that are related. However, while the pain of tendinitis or bursitis is localized to a specific area, pain and stiffness with fibromyalgia are widespread.

As a person with a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, it is sometimes difficult to be sure the diagnosis is entirely correct because of the similarities between fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. As time progresses, so do the symptoms and areas affected by degenerative joint disease, making me wonder if perhaps there is a bit of fibromyalgia involved along the way. Perhaps one day, doctors will be able to make clear and definitive diagnosis, providing at least a clear understanding of the differences between the two diagnosis.



Related:

  1. Fibromyalgia Pain and the Weather - Ian Langtree - (2011-11-14)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/health/fibromyalgia/weather-pain.php
  2. Fibromyalgia and Neuropathic Pain - Differences and Similarities - BioMed Central Ltd - (2011-05-25)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/health/fibromyalgia/neuropathic-pain.php
  3. What causes Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Mark S - (2009-01-18)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/health/fibromyalgia/fibromyalgia-cfs.php





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