Is My Pain Caused by Arthritis or Fibromyalgia?

I consider myself a fibromyalgia rheumatologist in London in as much as my practice doesn’t focus solely on arthritis and related conditions. I also treat patients with fibromyalgia. Such patients are looking for a level of care and compassion they do not always get from the public system.

Fibromyalgia can be especially tricky for clinicians because it is largely misunderstood. Also known as fibromyalgia syndrome, it was once thought that the condition was psychosomatic. In other words, patients exhibited symptoms only because they convinced themselves they were ill. Doctors at one time didn’t believe fibromyalgia was real.

I’m happy to report that things have changed. Medical science now understands that not only is fibromyalgia very real, but its symptoms are treatable. The availability of new and better treatments is one of the many reasons I choose to offer private help for fibromyalgia.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes chronic and widespread pain. It is often confused with arthritis due to the fact that joints are often affected. But there are distinct differences between arthritis and fibromyalgia. Many of those differences are found in the symptoms themselves.

Fibromyalgia patients often experience pain at well-known pressure points around the body. An experienced clinician can touch those pressure points to induce pain as a way of verifying a diagnosis. Clinicians also look for the following symptoms:

  • Increased pain sensitivity
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Sleeping problems
  • Mental fatigue
  • Chronic headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome.

It is possible for a fibromyalgia patient to exhibit just one or two systems in addition to pain. Some patients exhibit all of the symptoms on this list. As a clinician, I have to look at each patient on a case-by-case basis.

What causes fibromyalgia?

At this point, we don’t know for sure what causes this condition. We do have some educated guesses based on recent research. For example, we know that altered brain chemicals can have all sorts of adverse effects. One line of thinking suggests that abnormal levels of certain brain chemicals in fibromyalgia patients alter the way the central nervous system perceives pain.

It has also been suggested that fibromyalgia is linked to genetics. Genes passed on by parents might make some people more susceptible to fibromyalgia pain than others.

Finally, there is some research to suggest that fibromyalgia might be triggered by some sort of physical or emotional trauma. Things like serious injuries and infections, the birth of a child, or the loss of a loved one are examples.

How is it treated?

There is still much for us to learn about fibromyalgia before we can even think about a cure. For now, treatments include medications, talking therapies, and lifestyle changes.

Medications are prescribed to manage pain and improve sleep. Just getting a patient back into a normal sleep routine can do wonders to reduce pain. As for talking therapies, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and targeted counselling have proven helpful.

Finally, we recommend lifestyle changes that encourage regular exercise and time spent relaxing. We have learned that a few simple changes here and there can do a lot to mitigate fibromyalgia pain.

If you believe pain that you have long attributed to arthritis might be from fibromyalgia instead, I encourage you to give my office a call. As a leading fibromyalgia rheumatologist in London, I would be more than happy to work with you to help manage your pain. My goal is to help you enjoy your best life.

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