What is the Difference Between Inflammatory Arthritis and Fibromyalgia ?

Certain types of inflammatory arthritis and fibromyalgia are often confused because their symptoms mimic one another in early stages.


While fibromyalgia is considered an arthritis-related condition, it is not a true form of arthritis because it does not cause tissue inflammation nor does it damage joints or muscles. However some consider it a rheumatic condition because it can make the joints and surrounding tissues painful and sore to use. In general people with fibromyalgia have normal looking X-ray and blood tests results, and family and friends drive them mad by telling them they look fine. A person with arthritis will have abnormal test results and they may also be in visible pain, with swollen or deformed joints.

Distinguishing between the two to yield a proper diagnosis is important to ensure proper treatment. Both are chronic disorders earmarked by long-lasting pain.

Inflammatory Arthritis

There are several types of inflammatory arthritis which include:

Inflammatory arthritis leads to inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. Long-standing inflammatory arthritis can result in joint deformation and disability.

Typical Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis/Osteoarthritis  Osteoarthritis

• Pain in affected joints, particularly after repetitive use.
• Stiffness, you may feel creaky first thing in the morning.
• Creaking joint noises, cracking and crunching sounds.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

• Reduced appetite.
• Feeling generally unwell.
• Fatigue.
• Swollen glands.
• General feeling of weakness.



Fibromyalgia affects not only joints, but muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues in the elbows, hips, chest, knees, lower back, neck, and shoulders. Fibromyalgia can develop alone or with inflammatory arthritis.

Common Shared Symptoms

Both fibromyalgia and inflammatory arthritis sufferers have pain and stiffness in the morning. Other common symptoms shared by the two conditions include:

  • fatigue
  • sleep disturbances
  • limited range of motion
  • numbness or tingling

Typical Signs of Fibromyalgia

• Pain in specific points of the body called the fibromyalgia tender points.
• Flu like pain, primarily in the neck and shoulders.
• Feeling anxious.
• Constant extreme fatigue.
• Chronic back pain.
• Bouts of constipation or diarrhea.
• Jaw or facial tenderness (90 percent experience this symptom).
• Headaches and migraines (up to 50 percent of cases).

Diagnosing Symptoms

Tests to distinguish fibromyalgia and inflammatory arthritis include X-rays, blood tests, and ultrasound. Besides inflammatory arthritis, fibromyalgia also shares common symptoms with several other conditions.

  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • cancer
  • depression
  • HIV infection
  • hyperthyroidism
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lyme disease

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What is the Link between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Depression?

Rheumatoid arthritis seems to be one of the most common types of arthritis today. You have chronic pain and inflammation in your joints that affect your hands, wrists, feet and ankles. This can leave you feeling physically challenged and unable to enjoy your day to day activities that you used to do without thinking of your rheumatoid arthritis. Now just pulling weeds in the garden can be a painful experience. Going from having a life to having no life in just minutes. That is why there is a link between rheumatoid arthritis and depression. Continue to read and I will tell you more.

  • Waking up with the pain

Waking up with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis can ruin your day leaving you depressed. Have rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis leaves you even more depressed. Having a flare up first thing in your day, after having a bad day the day before can just cause you to spiral out of control. There is only so much you can handle day after day.

  • Exercise and depression

A lot of people believe, including myself and doctors, that exercise can help your depression. If I have a bad day, the first place you can find me is in a gym class. My friends know that is the first place to find me, second is the grocery store. Try swimming since it is low impact on your joints. The water is great for aerobics classes and kicks boxing. It may sound strange, but you do not need to swim laps in the pool to exercise in one. The difficult part about having rheumatoid arthritis is the fact that your joints do now allow you to exercise as you may have previously. This is what makes people spiral into a worse depression. My advice, see your doctor for advice.

  • Antidepressant

Your doctor has diagnosed you with rheumatoid arthritis, so they are the best people to seek advice from if you are beginning to become depressed. Your doctor may prescribe you an antidepressant. This may alert you, but it is not something that should alarm you. People, you know probably take a mild antidepressant and probably do not advertise it. The point being this will help to ease your mind when you feel pain from your joints.

  • Joint Pain Relief

Speaking of achy joints, you should also seek out joint pain relief. There are numerous alternatives you can use besides medication. I know many people who swear by acupuncture. I know I am a big fan of massages. They help my neck and back like you would not believe. You can also seek herbal remedies from your local health food store. The point is, is that you do not have to live with achy joints if you do not want to.

  • Omega 3 Foods

Many people believe that your diet can also affect how your rheumatoid arthritis acts. Science shows that if you have a well balanced and healthy diet with omega 3 foods, that can help to reduce inflammation in your joints. Think plenty of fish, green vegetables and whole grains. Eating healthy can also help you feel better. With less inflammation and less achy joints, you will begin to feel more like yourself and feel less depressed (hopefully).

Also watch video on: Foods That Fight Arthritis Pain I Wish I Knew Earlier 

  • Counselor and Doctors

If diet and exercise are not working, try writing or speaking with a counselor. I have done both, and they have helped in the past. Sometimes talking to an absolute stranger can make you see things clearer and make you feel better. If your joints are inflamed writing may not be easy to do. That is why I recommend speaking to a counselor more. When I was going through a difficult time in my life and was feeling quite depressed, I spoke to a counselor, and she helped me find my path again. This may be embarrassing like the antidepressants, but you can look at it as not taking a medication that you are afraid people are judging you for. Then again, when I told friends, I was seeing a counselor they told me they saw one as well. That may make you feel better too.

Having rheumatoid arthritis may cause depression, but it is about what you choose to do that will make you feel better. Change your diet, but start small at first. Take out two processed foods and switch them with whole grains and fish. Just small adjustments can lead to bigger solutions. Talk to a counselor, seek medical advice, and my favorite part is to treat your achy joints to a wonderful massage.

Arthritis and Gluten Free Diet

Our immune system, as we know all too well, is essential for survival and well-being. It can be a mixed blessing; it can protect against infectious disease, but can also have unpleasant effects like allergy and autoimmunity (immunity to the body’s own proteins).

It is vital that it reacts to some things, but just as vital that it should not react to others. It now seems likely that the way in which our immune system responds to our food is much more important than had previously been realized; disturbances in this response may play a crucial role in a variety of diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, migraine and eczema.

We usually tend to think of our skin as our main contact with the outside world but, in fact, it is a pretty successful barrier keeping out most infective agents and foreign molecules; these usually gain access only when the skin has been broken in some way.

By contrast, the whole function of the digestive system is to take things in, on a fairly large scale. Until recently, it was assumed that proteins were absorbed only after being broken down into their constituent amino acids, molecules which are too small to provoke an immune reaction.

It has now been found, however, that quite sizeable protein molecules can cross the intestinal barrier. For several hours after a meal, recognizable proteins, for example, from eggs, milk and wheat, are circulating in the blood. These are foreign proteins and we would expect the immune system to react against them.

Even if only a very small proportion of the food protein crossed the barrier in this form, it represents, potentially, a massive immunological onslaught. For some reason, however, these food proteins normally seem to be tolerated.

It is only when this tolerance is disturbed that there is an immune response. Somehow, the system seems to be able to discriminate between food proteins, which ideally should not provoke an immune response, and other things, which should. Oral vaccines (for example, polio vaccine) and various harmful bugs, which enter via the gut, can still provoke classic immune reactions.

A breakdown in this discriminatory system seems to be a factor in coeliac disease, a particularly unpleasant condition, in which there is an immune reaction to wheat protein (gluten). The lining of the small intestine is damaged, and sufferers are unable to absorb food properly. The symptoms are weight loss, diarrhea and general misery; children with the disease have the pot bellies and sagging buttocks normally associated with famine victims.

A gluten-free diet works like magic, and one of the first things noticed is a change of mood.

The suggestion has been made that diet can help in the control of rheumatoid arthritis; this idea is probably as old as the belief in copper bracelets. Dr Cliona O’Farrelly first became interested in the possibility after reading an article in a magazine.

She had worked on coeliac disease at Trinity College, Dublin, before moving to Sussex to work with Dr Luke Fernandes, a rheumatologist at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. The scientific literature, however, was not encouraging. She found that previous research on the effects of diet had produced mixed results and that there was widespread scepticism among medical people.

Nevertheless, it did seem that these mixed results could be accounted for if diet was important only to some types of rheumatoid arthritis sufferer but not to others. Looking further, she and her colleagues carried out tests on 87 patients and found that just over half of them showed evidence of an immune reaction to wheat or milk protein; 41 of them had raised levels of antibodies to wheat gluten.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, a type of disease in which the immune system reacts against the body’s own proteins.

Rheumatic complications are known to occur consequent to other diseases, particularly after infections with bacteria or viruses. For some reason, in rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system makes antibodies (which have been produced against something else); the autoimmune reaction is against the product of another immune reaction.

It seems likely that these two types of antibody react to form complexes which lodge in the joints and that these complexes are attacked by the active cells of the immune system, producing an inflammatory response.

Antibodies are proteins, immunoglobulins, and there are a number of different types, including IgG, IgA and IgM. The rheumatoid factor antibodies are produced against normal IgG antibodies.

For sometime, it has been known that about 75 percent of patients have an IgM rheumatoid factor. More recently, however, another rheumatoid factor, of type IgA, has been found in about 60 percent of patients. IgA is generally associated with mucosal surfaces, such as the lining of the digestive system. In the Sussex study, although only about half the patients showed immune reactions to the dietary proteins, 90 percent of these had rheumatoid factor type IgA.

Therefore, it seems that rheumatoid arthritis sufferers can be divided into two classes, those who give an immune response to dietary protein (about half), and those who do not. Most of those who give an immune response to food, have rheumatoid factor IgA, which may have derived from the gastrointestinal tract. Perhaps these are the only ones who will respond to a manipulation of the diet and this is now being investigated.

At present, no one knows much about the mechanisms which normally maintain tolerance to dietary proteins and how and why they break down. The change from tolerance to an active immune response may be the result of some malfunction or of damage which increases the amount of food protein circulating in the blood.

It seems likely that some cases of rheumatoid arthritis are a secondary consequence of such an unusual response to dietary protein. Wheat protein, because of its tendency to provoke such responses, may have a particularly important role.

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