How can you tell the difference between osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia

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Hello  Can anyone tell me how you tell the difference  between fibromyalgia and osteo arthritis.  I am 70 female have osteo arthritis in the spine neck and knees and possibly the hips.  I also have gastritis, IBS and diverticulosis , asthma, rhinitis, high blood pressure, underactive thyroid, blepharitis and glaucoma.  I get pain all over my body and it varies from day to day and where on the body.  My ankles feet and legs ache a lot with odd burning pains (i do have varicose veins as well).  Lower neck and upper and mid back all cause pains randomly on both sides of the body.  I feel like there is no part of the body which is not affected.  I can only take paracetamol which only help a bit.  I have good days and think I am getting better then it suddenly hits, especially if I have tried to be active, for example I sing in a choir and decided I could do one of the gigs but the standing for 1 hour with singing and moves during warm weather left me drained with legs like lead, aching feet and back.  I have also suffered from anxiety for a few years but with counselling I have it under control. The trouble I think that family and doctors seem to think every ache and pain is caused by anxiety.  I have had quite a stressful 2 years a house move 200 miles away and lots of hospital visits and tests for both myself and husband.  Do you think this could be fibromyalgia or am I not ill enough or could all the pain be arthritis.  My gp seems reluctant to send me for any more tests since all the conditions including arthritis have all been diagnosed by hospitals.  From what I read people with this condition really suffer and don't seem to get the understanding.  The recent hot weather and really drained me I seem to suffer with heat intolerance which I suppose could be thyroid all though according to my gp the level is fine.  I also get periods where I feel really cold often when it is just starting to warm up in the spring and other people are saying it is not cold.  Any comments would be welcome.  I did post on this forum sometime ago when I lived down south.  I think family get fed up with me complaining if not pain then it is Ibs problems.  I am due to go to a family wedding in 2 weeks and we have a long drive to get there.  I have sorted out the menu adjusting it for my stomach issues but am still worried about that and being in pain.  I think family seem to think you can still do everything you could 20 years ago and I want to enjoy myself with all the family.

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  • Posted

    Hi libralady13 sorry to hear you are suffering. I have lupus sjogrens and pbc. I have recently been suffering from pins and needles and muscle spasms and my legs feel like lead. I also have burning throbbing feet which affect me mainly of a night. I have been having all over pain some days worse than others. I have no idea what is causing my symptoms. Rheumy tested me for specific pointers but they werent painful so said l dont have fibro. I personally think l do. I have seen neuro and had brain scan which was clear of ms he has no idea what is causing my symptoms. Autoimmune diseases have a mind of there own and often dont have a name. Im 68 in November.

    Best wishes Chris

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  • Posted

    I forgot to say l also have diverticulosis and ostearthritis.
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  • Posted

    I'm sorry to hear that you are suffering so much. The problem is that, yes, it could be fibromyalgia, but having such a diagnosis is not really going to help make you better as there is no specific cure or even effective treatment for it. When you have a long list of things wrong with you it is easier for others, GPs and family members to put your symptoms down to one of the already diagnosed issues.

    So, my suggestion is this, although I'm sure you are already aware of a lot of this, learn to 'pace' yourself. This is hard because the list of things in your head that you want to do is longer than your supply of energy. You say that you only take paracetamol, is this because you dont wish to take other drugs or your GP has not prescribed anything else? I take amytriptyline and fluoextine (prozac) and they both help to an extent. Three months ago I started on a regime of supplements and these have helped a lot. Vitamin D is important as the symptoms of deficiency are very similar to fibro and most of the population is deficient in this. I take mine combined with calcium as I have given up dairy (dairy made me very mucussy/snotty.) I take turmeric capsules as a natural anti inflammatory. Magnesium helps the muscles release energy and this was recommended by the health food advisor. Finally, and I believe this has had the biggest effect, I take a few drops of CBD oil twice a day, this acts on the pain receptors in the brain and calms down overreaction, it also aids anxiety. I'm not sure you will notice a significant difference in time for the wedding, it took 4 - 6 weeks for me to really gain benefits, but I feels better than I have felt in years.  Good luck, and try to relax and enjoy the wedding.

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    • Posted

      Thank you very much for your reply.  I agree with a lot you say.  

      Today is a good day so far went to bed early so that probably helped as I knew that I as going out with my daughter and granddaughters this afternoon.  

      First of all can you tell me what dose of vitamin D you take.  I ask this because I have been on Vitamin D since around 2012.  In that year I broke my wrist which led to a Dexa scan which showed I had osteopenia but not osteporosis.  Another scan last year showed there was a very slight improvement.  My gp when I lived down south had me on a high dose 2,200 iu per day.  If blood tests showed my levels to be too high she would reduce it but then they would go low again.  So it was decided to stay on this dose.  My new gp here in NW England said the dose was far too high and prescribed a combined chewable tablet of calcium and Vit D  the dose of Vit D is 400iu the recommended dose for osteopenia and apparently subsequent blood tests have shown my levels to be ok.  I wonder what you think.,  Also you mention CBD oil can you tell me what is this?  You mention amytriptyline  and although my gp has mentioned taking this for anxiety in the past I refused as I think it is  contra indicated for glaucoma which I have.  My anxiety is so much better now having had counselling.  

      It is interesting you mention giving up dairy.  I have been sort of following low a fodmap diet for IBS and although I do not react to dairy as far as I can see or gluten I do have perential rhinitis and I have often wondered about whether dairy increases the mucus.  I make sure I drink plenty of water as well.  After the wedding in 2 weeks I will think about making some changes.  Looking forward to the wedding although it is marred a bit because my son has fallen out with 2 sisters.  Just hoping that the happy occasion will make them sort it out.  

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    • Posted

      Hi, I take a combined Calcium and Vitamin D tablet, just from Tescos, nothing fancy, it is 400mg of calcium and 2.5 micro grams of Vit D (apparently this is 50% of the RDA) twice a day, but the bottle says you can take up to 3 a day. I take one 400mg of Turmeric twice a day. I also take 250mg of Magnesium once a day. The CBD oil is an extract from Hemp which is from the same family as cannabis but there is no 'psychoactive' component so is both safe and legal. I get mine from Holland & Barrett, I buy the 5% strength and take two drops, under the tongue, 2 or 3 times a day. As it is now recognised that cannabis is an effective treatment for certain types of epilepsy (and can now be prescribed on the NHS) and has also been taken by people with Multiple Sclerosis to relieve pain for years (although they have to resort to buying it illegally). I have found it extremely effective and I hope it works for you if you give it a try. You will need to persevere with it, I don't think 2 weeks is enough, give it at least 4 to 6 weeks, if you feel the same then give it a miss as its pretty pricey (I always stock up when Holland & Barrett have a sale on.)

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  • Posted

    Sorry you at going through all this. I am 72 and female and have fibromyalgia and PMR, osteoarthritis of the spine and neck and diabetes. Your doctor could test the 16 or 18 ( can’t remember) pressure points for fibromyalgia. That is a good diagnostic tool. PMR needs blood test and can be helped with prednisone. Some days it is very hard to tell one disease from the other. Best wishes, Linda 
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  • Posted

    osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis that effects the cartilage and wears down the joint, bone then rubs off bone as no synovial fluid to cushion the joint, also the bone and carltlige can crumble or break down over time in worst cases, osteoarthritis is known as (OA) is the most common chronic condition of the joints. Fibromyalgia effects the joints by causing stiffness but does not cause damage to the joints, does not cause arthritis or OA. You can have both but they are two different conditions. Hope this answers your question.

    I am a complementary therapist and remedial/sports therapist so I have knowledge in this back ground. 

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    • Posted

      Thank you for reply. I do know you can have both conditions and the damage in OA and no damage in fibromyalgia. What I was wanting to ask was if you could tell from your symptoms what conditions 5th ion was causing them.
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    • Posted

      That’s ok i hate predictive text too. 

      Remember that no two people are the same and we can’t compare our illness to how bad we feel, Fibromyalgia is muscular and ligaments this is why we feel the ache in our joints but with our damage, I am 38 years of age and was diagnosed at 26. When I feel a flare I get sore stiff ankles (shuffle rather than walk lol), I get sore stiff joints and fingers that feel like they have a pulse. I get sore lower back and base of my neck and shoulders hurt. I get hit with extreme fatigue that is worse than the pain to be honest as we can take pain meds but rest is the only thing that lifts the fatigue. I get very emotional and confused, I find it hard to deal with sound and need to been away from high pitched sounds, so when my husband snores I just want to scream because it sounds like it’s in my head, sounds feel like they have camped up by 100 so very sensitive that I feel like I’m going crazy. I get so bad with the mix of fatigue, muscle aches and joint stiffness I feel like someone is compressing my chest that my breathing becomes very shallow and my glands swell up. My husband at this point has to put me to bed and I’m usually a crying mess. I use hot water bottles, one on my chest and one on my feet and one in between my legs as the heat soothes and relaxes me, I get very anxious, irritable and depressed also around a flare as it effects your central nervous system, so we are not going mad it’s just part of it. When I take a flare it’s usually around my hormone time as I have endometriosis so I also take an endometriosis flare so they trigger each other, endo flare is when adhesions and endo implants stick to other organs in the body and have a memory of there own, they bleed, cause pain and trigger inflammation throughout the body so the mix of the two can be hell and this is when I end up in hospital. I am very lucky as I have a team of doctors and specialists who look after both conditions over the years. 

      So basically we all have our own story, our own journey, our own pain challenges and our own emotions so this is why we can’t compare to each other who has it worst as we are all unique and may have fibromyalgia but we may also have OA, arthritis, ibs, ME and other auto immune conditions also which is very common with Fibro xxxx

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  • Posted

    I know it difficult dealing with FMS and explaining to family the difference in the intensity and frequency of your pain vs theirs.  Arthritis and FMS both are extremely painful for an FMS patient. I can usually tell if FMS as my muscles ache and sometimes spasm. My arthritis causes pain in my joints. Both are tiring but if a full blown FMS attach it feels like flu and causes me to just want to sleep.  Family and friends don’t understand FMS patients have brain transmitters regarding pain that send signals when something is wrong with way more intensity for the FMS patient. For instance- My sister would stub her toe and it would hurt a little but when I stubbed my toe OMG I felt like my toe would come off. My sister had no patience with me.  But then someone in her office complained of being overly tired and explained it as part of her FMS. I thought when she told this story she’d be more patient with me but instead - she could understand her co-worker but NEVER me. I was diagnosed while in my 30s and I’m now 76.  I don’t know your family but for me I started declining invitations even when I wanted to go and stopped explaining my pain because frankly I’m pretty sure there was little caring for me on their part. Someone at a support group meeting once said “FMS won’t kill you so no one cares if your in pain. But what they don’t know is that sometimes when the pain is severe you wish FMS would take you out because after a while it wears your tolerance for everyday  life down”.  The sad part is as you age FMS gets worse. I do so hope you can enjoy your time with your family.  And I suggest you don’t decline invitations like I did cause after awhile they stop inviting you. 
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    • Posted

      Thank you so much for your reply.  I feel sorry for what you are going through and the number of years you have suffered.  From what you say having both conditions you must suffer far worse than me.  I wish I could suggest something to help.

      With regard to family whether I have F or just OA or both, pain is pain and stomach problems play a big part as well.  So as well as back, knee pain etc I also worry about whether my stomach will hurt and whether I will have toilet problems, all part of IBS and gastritis,diverticular disease.  The thing that hurts me most is not that they don't understand about being in pain but they brush it off lightly with words like you just need more exercise or relax, how ever well meaning.  My husband has his own health problems mainly breathing problems and arthritis so should be more understanding but seems to think he gets on with it so should I.  However if he feels unwell he just sits down and it waited on but it seems I am not allowed to complain.  Re the forthcoming wedding and other invitations it is bad enough thinking you may be ill and in pain ( I am sure you know what I mean 4 hour car journey, strange bed etc)  whether it is my imagination but my husband especially seems to think that I do it on purpose and this is so hurtful and in some ways worse that the actual pain.  I am glad you have said don't decline invitations and mostly I have not.  I wish you well. Not sure where you live but here in the north of England the heatwave has broken so it is at least cooler but expected to hot up another thing I am worried about re the wedding it is down south so will be hotter than here and as I mentioned I do cope well with heat.  Why do people look at you as if you are mad if you say you don't like the heat.  

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  • Posted

    Completely sympathise and when you get stressed it can make all your conditions worse as you will be constantly on edge, you’ll feel anxious and you won’t be giving your mind or body a break. Have you spoken about Counseling to your gp or a pain physiologist? Sounds like you need more support and you need to speak with someone who understands and can take the pressure off of you by talking. I see a pain physiologist who is great and gives me a better understanding of how stress can have a nocking effect on this illness, when your dealing with not just one illness but a group of illnesses it can be hard to determine what is what. Unfortunately friends and family do t understand as they can’t feel our pain and we are very resilient, can do what others do so people think there’s nothing going on with us, those who do actually have an illness are the ones who try to lead a normal life and constantly fighting each day to feel normal. 

    Fibro makes you feel very emotional and confused, anxious and sensitive so we can also blow things out of context also. You really need to speak with your gp about the sycological effects of what you are dealing with as stress triggers 80% of illnesses and puts are brains into a fight or flight programme so your body is under stress making more inflammation as your body is working extra hard under pressure. Even take a family member with you to an appointment so they can see and hear what you are going through also. 

    Big hugs x

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