Fibromyalgia & Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments
Research Staff

David Lee, Acupuncture

October 28, 2019

Fibromyalgia & RA are different

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, memory, sleep and mood difficulties. Fibromyalgia is described as inflammation of the fibrous or connective tissue of the body. Lots of people with fibromyalgia describe the symptoms as like the aches and pains of a serious case of the flu.

Fibromyalgia changes how the brain and nervous system procedure and interpret pain. People with the condition have a tendency to feel amplified pain when they experience regular injuries.


RA on the other hand is an autoimmune illness. It causes the immune system to damage the synovial tissues, which line the joints. This contributes to inflammation and pain. We now know that fibromyalgia is not linked to degenerative or inflammatory arthritis, though the symptoms may sometimes be very similar.


Fibromyalgia in itself does not cause any lasting harm to the body's tissues. However, it is important to maintain as active as possible in order to prevent weakening of the muscles that could cause secondary issues.


Diagnosis is difficult and frequently overlooked because of symptoms of fibromyalgia are vague and generalized. Coexisting nerve and muscle disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, spinal arthritis, or Lyme disease may further complicate the diagnostic process. Presently, there are no tests available to diagnose fibromyalgia. The diagnosis is usually made after ruling out other medical conditions with similar symptoms.


Fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis share some symptoms, such as pain and fatigue. If someone has both conditions, the signs may be hard to distinguish. But, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are unrelated and have different causes. While many holistic remedies are alike for symptoms management, medical treatments for these conditions are often distinct.

How are Fibromyalgia & RA different?

Fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis both feature stiffness and pain throughout the body, but there are a few differences. Fibromyalgia usually causes pain, stiffness, and tenderness in joints and connective tissues throughout the body. On the other hand, RA affects only certain joints.


Other common symptoms include:

- pain in various parts of the body

- stiffness that is worse in the morning 

- anxiety

 - chronic exhaustion

- reduced mobility in joints and muscles


While the effects may be similar, these conditions have various causes.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic neurological illness, meaning that it affects the nervous system.

With time, RA can cause irreversible damage to the bones and connective tissues in the joints. Inflammation can also spread to the lungs, skin, and eyes.


The medical community currently doesn't believe that fibromyalgia causes inflammation. But, recent research suggests that fibromyalgia may cause a sort of inflammation that's not detected by routine blood tests. No evidence indicates that this inflammation causes muscle or joint damage like RA, and there could be no visible signs.


Symptoms of Fibromyalgia vs RA

When many symptoms are similar, there are generally a couple of ways to differentiate between fibromyalgia and RA.

- Joint pain is a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, but fibromyalgia pain can affect various body parts.


Symptoms specific to fibromyalgia include:

- Pain in the chest, thighs, buttocks, arms, back, and the back of the head

gastrointestinal problems, like nausea and constipation

- nausea and headaches

- "fibro fog" or issues with thinking clearly 

- very painful menstrual cycle

- skin that's tender or feels sunburned

- trigger points which may feel like a hard knot and cause radiating pain when touched

- widespread pain that affects more than one part or half of their body

- restless leg syndrome

- sensitivity to temperatures, sounds, and noises

- symptoms which look arbitrary or are difficult to convey


Symptoms specific to RA include:

 fever

- nausea

- severe peripheral joint swelling

- pain and tenderness that only affects the joints

- pain and tenderness felt equally on either side of the body


Fibromyalgia vs other arthritis types

Many home remedies and natural remedies for fibromyalgia and RA are alike. However, since the conditions have different causes, medical treatments are different. Consult a doctor for specific advice.


Fibromyalgia can be observed with other types of chronic inflammatory arthritis: Psoriatic arthritis and spondyloarthritis. Inflammatory arthritis is controversially termed as secondary fibromyalgia. This can be attributed to the underlying inflammatory process. It's more commonly found in patients with psoriatic arthritis, a pilot research shows. Larger studies are, however, required. It has recently been estimated that about one-fifth of individuals with osteoarthritis also suffer with fibromyalgia. The likely connection between the two is poor posture and obesity.


Fibromyalgia and arthritis treatments

Treatment options to consider if someone had both these conditions: Fibromyalgia and arthritis

The threat of fibromyalgia rises with inflammatory forms of arthritis. This is mostly because of chronic pain, which sensitizes the brain not only to things that harm but also to things that normally are not painful. They have pain receptors firing all the time. In fighting the pain, fatigue sets in. People, thus have cognitive and sleep issues.

Patients with both conditions often have more severe symptoms, including:

- Greater pain

- Joint tenderness

- Decreased physical motion

- Decreased mental function

In general, they have a lesser quality of life. They're in poorer health, and they suffer from a range of conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and depression. They're also more likely to be disabled and not able to work.

Treatment options for fibromyalgia and arthritis

Exercise:  Treatments requires both pharmacological for pain management and non-pharmacological remedies for longer term benefits. Non-pharmacological therapies aim in the practical consequences of pain. Research indicates that regular activity is among the very best remedies for pain syndromes. Individuals must start slowly at first, increasing activity slowly once they start feeling better.

Several studies published in the Journal of pain research suggest that yoga can help ease symptoms. Women with the disorder improved from a 75-minute yoga class twice a week for eight months.


AcupunctureAcupuncture can help in reducing stiffness and pain. This was published in the Cochrane database of systematic reviews. Promising results were also seen with Tai chi over 24 months; a study in the new England journal of medicine reported that.


 SleepResting through sleeping is a natural process and also essential for reducing any chronic pain. For many people with the disease, it is tough to sleep with pain - as many can relate. Conversely, a good night's rest can significantly improve symptoms by relaxing the mind and body.


Relaxation TechniquesParticular techniques to improve symptoms of those conditions include:

- Meditation

- Massage

- Deep breathing exercises

- Cognitive behavioral therapy


These techniques alter the way your brain works. They are useful in improving symptoms, particularly fatigue and pain while promoting deep rest and comfort.


Natural supplements for fibromyalgia and arthritis

Some studies show that some medicinal herbs and organic supplements might assist in treat most symptoms of fibromyalgia and arthritis. If you wish to have a natural approach to treating the illness, it's important to learn as much as possible about the remedies you consider.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a natural hormone called an over-the-counter supplement. It's sometimes used to cause drowsiness and enhance sleep patterns. Some studies state that melatonin may be effective in treating pain. Most patients of these conditions have sleep problems and fatigue, and melatonin may be useful.

Melatonin is generally as considered safe, but its a few side effects. By way of instance, due to the possibility of daytime sleepiness, anyone taking melatonin should use caution when driving.

St. John's Wort: There's no specific evidence that St. John's wort is useful in treating these conditions. However, this herb is commonly used in treating depression. Depression is usually associated with fibromyalgia. This might be a long-term treatment objective. St John's wort is generally safe. Side effects include skin reactions, fatigue, or an upset stomach. St. John's wort shouldn't be mixed with antidepressants or any other supplement unless your doctor approves. The combinations can lead to illness.


5-hydroxytrytophan (5-HT): It is a natural amino acid. 5-HT helps your body in the production of serotonin, the chemical regulating your mood. Studies indicate its role in relieving pain, morning stiffness and fatigue. More study is needed though.


L-carnitine: It's thought to provide some relief from exhaustion. Some researchers also have concluded that L-carnitine may offer support for the muscle system. More studies are necessary as there are limited studies on L-carnitine. 


Summary

Consult with your doctor or health expert about complementary & integrative treatments. Acupuncture, massage therapy, ayurveda, meditation, yoga, or other choices might help you feel better. Your doctor can help you recognize the possible benefits and risks of adding them to your treatment program.

References

1. CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/fibromyalgia.htm

2. Versus Arthritis, https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/conditions/fibromyalgia/

3. Ataoğlu, S., Ankaralı, H., Ankaralı, S., Ataoğlu, B. B., & Ölmez, S. B. (2017, September 28). Quality of life in fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis patients: Comparison of different scales. The Egyptian Rheumatologist

sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1110116417301199

4. Bäckryd, E., Tanum, L., Lind, A.-L., Larsson, A., & Gordh, T. (2017, March 3). Evidence of both systemic inflammation and neuroinflammation in fibromyalgia patients, as assessed by a multiplex protein panel applied to the cerebrospinal fluid and to plasma. Journal of Pain Research, 10, 515–525, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28424559

5. Fibromyalgia. (2017, March), rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Fibromyalgia

6. Ferrari, R., & Russell, A. S. (2014). Pain mystery score beliefs: A comparison of fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. International Journal of Rheumatology, 2014, 1–5, hindawi.com/journals/ijr/2014/593507/


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