Exploring the Connection: Does Fibromyalgia Cause Inflammation?

Table of contents

Exploring the Connection: Does Fibromyalgia Cause Inflammation?

Is there a link between fibromyalgia and inflammation? The relationship is complex. While fibromyalgia is widely recognized for causing chronic, widespread pain, it isn't typically associated with the conventional inflammatory processes seen in conditions like osteoarthritis.

In this article, we delve into the question of whether fibromyalgia is a source of inflammation, examine if the condition is linked to elevated inflammation markers, and consider other potential causes of inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis.

We will dissect the symptoms characteristic of fibromyalgia and discuss the various conditions that may coexist with it. Additionally, we will provide you with an array of strategies to effectively manage fibromyalgia pain.

Does fibromyalgia cause inflammation in the body?

Although you might experience symptoms similar to those of inflammatory disorders, like the persistent pain seen in rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia itself doesn't cause the typical inflammation associated with these conditions.

Instead, the pain you feel with fibromyalgia comes from the way your brain and spinal cord process stimuli and signals, not from actual inflammation in your joints or tissues. That said, the pain you're experiencing is very real and can impact your daily life significantly, even though it's not linked to the inflammation you might find with other conditions.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Contrary to popular belief, fibromyalgia is not solely a disorder characterized by pain. Indeed, chronic widespread pain is its hallmark symptom, but the condition's complexity doesn't end there.

If you live with fibromyalgia, you probably know that there is a whole spectrum of other symptoms, including digestive issues that mirror irritable bowel syndrome and sleep disturbances that persist despite significant fatigue. Cognitive difficulties that include difficulty with concentration and memory are also common, frequently described as feeling like you're wading through a mental fog – colloquially known as 'brain fog'.

Because of the intricate nature of fibromyalgia, the diverse range of symptoms can often be mistaken for those of other conditions, leading to what is known as the symptom overlap conundrum.

For more, see our complete list of 200+ Symptoms of Fibromyalgia.

How the central nervous system plays a role

The central nervous system, composed of the brain and spinal cord, orchestrates a multitude of bodily functions, and pain perception is one of them.

For those with fibromyalgia, the nervous system is in a disordered state and the neural pathways that transmit signals to the brain are dialed up to a hypersensitive state. This can mean that someone experiences intense pain from a stimulus that wouldn't normally cause pain, and it diminishes the effectiveness of the body's natural pain-suppression mechanisms. This is akin to the heightened sensitivity seen in restless legs syndrome and similar conditions.

Investigating common co-conditions

Fibromyalgia often coexists with other health challenges, including thyroid imbalances and various autoimmune diseases1. These additional conditions can have a profound impact on your overall health and wellbeing. For example, co-morbidities such as inflammatory diseases, anemia, or chronic fatigue syndrome can exacerbate the fatigue that often comes with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia & autoimmune diseases

It is not uncommon for someone diagnosed with fibromyalgia to also grapple with an autoimmune disorder. The prevalence of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, axial spondylarthritis (an inflammatory disease of the spine), and psoriatic arthritis (arthritis linked to chronic skin and nail disease) is significantly higher in the fibromyalgia population compared to the general populace2.

Additionally, the relationship between fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases extends beyond mere coexistence. Recent research suggests that fibromyalgia may share some autoimmune characteristics3.

How can I tell if I have fibromyalgia or polymyalgia?

Polymyalgia is a condition that causes muscle pain and stiffness, and can impact many muscles throughout the body. Sounds a lot like fibro! Polymyalgia is strongly linked to age, and mainly affects people who are over 70 years old. Although the prevalence of fibro also increases with age, it can impact people of any age and tends to first present when someone is in their 30s or 40s.

To give you a diagnosis, your doctor or specialists will carefully review your medical history and your self-reported symptoms. In addition to pain, they will want to know about other things you might feel, such as extreme tiredness, stomach problems, feeling sad or anxious, and having trouble thinking clearly.

They might conduct a full physical exam as well as other scans and tests, such as X-rays, ultrasounds, or MRI scans to rule out other conditions that look like fibromyalgia. These tests can show if you have any physical damage, inflammation, or other signs of certain conditions4 – for example, some diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis have clear signs, such as swollen joints and inflammation markers in your blood.

Approaches to treating fibromyalgia symptoms

Treating fibromyalgia is like putting together a puzzle – it takes many pieces to see the whole picture. Some parts of that puzzle include:

  • medicines that can help ease your pain
  • learning ways to think differently about pain
  • changing daily habits such as nutrition and movement to help your body feel better
  • improving your sleep.

Medications targeting fibromyalgia pain

Medication can play a role in your comprehensive approach to managing pain, but it should not be the sole focus. Think of medication as an assistant that paves the way for you to partake in other effective strategies for managing pain, such as educational initiatives, lifestyle modifications, and psychological support.

The types of medications often recommended for fibromyalgia include:

  • non-prescription pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen
  • antidepressants, for example, amitriptyline and duloxetine, which can both alleviate pain and enhance mood
  • modulators of pain and inflammation, such as Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)
  • medications such as pregabalin and gabapentin that can calm an overly reactive nervous system.

Consulting your healthcare provider is crucial for tailoring medication choices to your unique health needs.

Retraining your pain

To reshape your brain's perception of pain, it's essential to recognize that pain is not solely a physical experience but also shaped by your biological, psychological, and social contexts.

Understanding what sets off your pain – be it stress, personal beliefs, or certain behaviors – is the first step. Once you pinpoint these factors, you can begin altering them through dietary changes, improved sleep habits, and increased physical activity, or by employing neuroplasticity techniques to modify your brain's response to these triggers. With persistence and commitment, you can gradually rewire your brain to diminish both the severity and the influence of your pain.

Lifestyle adjustments & self-care

Adjusting everyday habits can mitigate many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. For example:

  • Making dietary changes to include anti-inflammatory foods: this might involve adopting a plant-centric diet, eating a Mediterranean diet, or following a low FODMAP diet if specific foods are making your symptoms worse5,6.
  • Creating a consistent sleep schedule and a bedtime routine: this can help encourage calmness and improve your quality.
  • Engaging in regular, low to moderate-intensity movement: this can help regulate your body, reduce the severity of your symptoms, and improve your overall wellbeing. Make sure you go gently and keep the activity level in check to avoid exacerbating your symptoms.

Improve your sleep

Good sleep is key to managing your fibromyalgia symptoms, and we know that it's hard to get! However, a lack of sleep can make your pain and other symptoms worse.

Here's what you try in order to sleep better:

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark.
  • Avoid big meals or drinks with caffeine before bedtime.
  • Keep moving during the day so your body is ready to rest at night.
  • Turn off your phone, computer, and TV before you go to sleep.

More information

At MoreGoodDays®, our holistic approach is designed to empower you in your journey with fibromyalgia. We understand the profound effects this condition can have on every aspect of your life, and we offer a range of strategies to help you cope with its symptoms.

Our resources provide valuable knowledge about fibromyalgia and practical methods for symptom control. We assist you in adopting healthier lifestyle practices, with an emphasis on exercise, diet, and sleep patterns, to improve your quality of life.

In addition, we offer psychological support services, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and techniques to manage stress, which aid in overcoming the emotional hurdles that come with fibromyalgia.

We are dedicated to guiding you towards a more fulfilling life, notwithstanding the obstacles posed by fibromyalgia.

Download our mobile app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for immediate access to some of our content and to see your support options.

  1. Bhargava J, Hurley JA. Fibromyalgia. [Updated 2023 Jun 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK540974/
  2. Tao X, Tao T, Wen Y, Yi J, He L, Huang Z, Nie Y, Yao X, Wang Y, He C, Yang X. Novel Delivery of Mitoxantrone with Hydrophobically Modified Pullulan Nanoparticles to Inhibit Bladder Cancer Cell and the Effect of Nano-drug Size on Inhibition Efficiency. Nanoscale Res Lett. 2018 Oct 30;13(1):345. doi: 10.1186/s11671-018-2769-x. PMID: 30377872; PMCID: PMC6207605. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6207605/
  3. Ryabkova VA, Gavrilova NY, Poletaeva AA, Pukhalenko AI, Koshkina IA, Churilov LP, Shoenfeld Y. Autoantibody Correlation Signatures in Fibromyalgia and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Association with Symptom Severity. Biomedicines. 2023 Jan 18;11(2):257. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines11020257. PMID: 36830795; PMCID: PMC9952981. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9952981/
  4. Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. Fibromyalgia, MedicineNet (2022). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321682#diagnosis
  5. Maddox EK, Massoni SC, Hoffart CM, Takata Y. Dietary Effects on Pain Symptoms in Patients with Fibromyalgia Syndrome: Systematic Review and Future Directions. Nutrients. 2023 Jan 31;15(3):716. doi: 10.3390/nu15030716. PMID: 36771421; PMCID: PMC9921865. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36771421/
  6. Sala-Climent M, López de Coca T, Guerrero MD, Muñoz FJ, López-Ruíz MA, Moreno L, Alacreu M, Dea-Ayuela MA. The effect of an anti-inflammatory diet on chronic pain: a pilot study. Front Nutr. 2023 Jul 13;10:1205526. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2023.1205526. PMID: 37521415; PMCID: PMC10381948. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10381948/

Exploring the Connection: Does Fibromyalgia Cause Inflammation?

Table of contents

Exploring the Connection: Does Fibromyalgia Cause Inflammation?

Is there a link between fibromyalgia and inflammation? The relationship is complex. While fibromyalgia is widely recognized for causing chronic, widespread pain, it isn't typically associated with the conventional inflammatory processes seen in conditions like osteoarthritis.

In this article, we delve into the question of whether fibromyalgia is a source of inflammation, examine if the condition is linked to elevated inflammation markers, and consider other potential causes of inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis.

We will dissect the symptoms characteristic of fibromyalgia and discuss the various conditions that may coexist with it. Additionally, we will provide you with an array of strategies to effectively manage fibromyalgia pain.

Does fibromyalgia cause inflammation in the body?

Although you might experience symptoms similar to those of inflammatory disorders, like the persistent pain seen in rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia itself doesn't cause the typical inflammation associated with these conditions.

Instead, the pain you feel with fibromyalgia comes from the way your brain and spinal cord process stimuli and signals, not from actual inflammation in your joints or tissues. That said, the pain you're experiencing is very real and can impact your daily life significantly, even though it's not linked to the inflammation you might find with other conditions.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Contrary to popular belief, fibromyalgia is not solely a disorder characterized by pain. Indeed, chronic widespread pain is its hallmark symptom, but the condition's complexity doesn't end there.

If you live with fibromyalgia, you probably know that there is a whole spectrum of other symptoms, including digestive issues that mirror irritable bowel syndrome and sleep disturbances that persist despite significant fatigue. Cognitive difficulties that include difficulty with concentration and memory are also common, frequently described as feeling like you're wading through a mental fog – colloquially known as 'brain fog'.

Because of the intricate nature of fibromyalgia, the diverse range of symptoms can often be mistaken for those of other conditions, leading to what is known as the symptom overlap conundrum.

For more, see our complete list of 200+ Symptoms of Fibromyalgia.

How the central nervous system plays a role

The central nervous system, composed of the brain and spinal cord, orchestrates a multitude of bodily functions, and pain perception is one of them.

For those with fibromyalgia, the nervous system is in a disordered state and the neural pathways that transmit signals to the brain are dialed up to a hypersensitive state. This can mean that someone experiences intense pain from a stimulus that wouldn't normally cause pain, and it diminishes the effectiveness of the body's natural pain-suppression mechanisms. This is akin to the heightened sensitivity seen in restless legs syndrome and similar conditions.

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Investigating common co-conditions

Fibromyalgia often coexists with other health challenges, including thyroid imbalances and various autoimmune diseases1. These additional conditions can have a profound impact on your overall health and wellbeing. For example, co-morbidities such as inflammatory diseases, anemia, or chronic fatigue syndrome can exacerbate the fatigue that often comes with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia & autoimmune diseases

It is not uncommon for someone diagnosed with fibromyalgia to also grapple with an autoimmune disorder. The prevalence of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, axial spondylarthritis (an inflammatory disease of the spine), and psoriatic arthritis (arthritis linked to chronic skin and nail disease) is significantly higher in the fibromyalgia population compared to the general populace2.

Additionally, the relationship between fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases extends beyond mere coexistence. Recent research suggests that fibromyalgia may share some autoimmune characteristics3.

How can I tell if I have fibromyalgia or polymyalgia?

Polymyalgia is a condition that causes muscle pain and stiffness, and can impact many muscles throughout the body. Sounds a lot like fibro! Polymyalgia is strongly linked to age, and mainly affects people who are over 70 years old. Although the prevalence of fibro also increases with age, it can impact people of any age and tends to first present when someone is in their 30s or 40s.

To give you a diagnosis, your doctor or specialists will carefully review your medical history and your self-reported symptoms. In addition to pain, they will want to know about other things you might feel, such as extreme tiredness, stomach problems, feeling sad or anxious, and having trouble thinking clearly.

They might conduct a full physical exam as well as other scans and tests, such as X-rays, ultrasounds, or MRI scans to rule out other conditions that look like fibromyalgia. These tests can show if you have any physical damage, inflammation, or other signs of certain conditions4 – for example, some diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis have clear signs, such as swollen joints and inflammation markers in your blood.

Approaches to treating fibromyalgia symptoms

Treating fibromyalgia is like putting together a puzzle – it takes many pieces to see the whole picture. Some parts of that puzzle include:

  • medicines that can help ease your pain
  • learning ways to think differently about pain
  • changing daily habits such as nutrition and movement to help your body feel better
  • improving your sleep.

Medications targeting fibromyalgia pain

Medication can play a role in your comprehensive approach to managing pain, but it should not be the sole focus. Think of medication as an assistant that paves the way for you to partake in other effective strategies for managing pain, such as educational initiatives, lifestyle modifications, and psychological support.

The types of medications often recommended for fibromyalgia include:

  • non-prescription pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen
  • antidepressants, for example, amitriptyline and duloxetine, which can both alleviate pain and enhance mood
  • modulators of pain and inflammation, such as Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)
  • medications such as pregabalin and gabapentin that can calm an overly reactive nervous system.

Consulting your healthcare provider is crucial for tailoring medication choices to your unique health needs.

Retraining your pain

To reshape your brain's perception of pain, it's essential to recognize that pain is not solely a physical experience but also shaped by your biological, psychological, and social contexts.

Understanding what sets off your pain – be it stress, personal beliefs, or certain behaviors – is the first step. Once you pinpoint these factors, you can begin altering them through dietary changes, improved sleep habits, and increased physical activity, or by employing neuroplasticity techniques to modify your brain's response to these triggers. With persistence and commitment, you can gradually rewire your brain to diminish both the severity and the influence of your pain.

Lifestyle adjustments & self-care

Adjusting everyday habits can mitigate many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. For example:

  • Making dietary changes to include anti-inflammatory foods: this might involve adopting a plant-centric diet, eating a Mediterranean diet, or following a low FODMAP diet if specific foods are making your symptoms worse5,6.
  • Creating a consistent sleep schedule and a bedtime routine: this can help encourage calmness and improve your quality.
  • Engaging in regular, low to moderate-intensity movement: this can help regulate your body, reduce the severity of your symptoms, and improve your overall wellbeing. Make sure you go gently and keep the activity level in check to avoid exacerbating your symptoms.

Improve your sleep

Good sleep is key to managing your fibromyalgia symptoms, and we know that it's hard to get! However, a lack of sleep can make your pain and other symptoms worse.

Here's what you try in order to sleep better:

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark.
  • Avoid big meals or drinks with caffeine before bedtime.
  • Keep moving during the day so your body is ready to rest at night.
  • Turn off your phone, computer, and TV before you go to sleep.

More information

At MoreGoodDays®, our holistic approach is designed to empower you in your journey with fibromyalgia. We understand the profound effects this condition can have on every aspect of your life, and we offer a range of strategies to help you cope with its symptoms.

Our resources provide valuable knowledge about fibromyalgia and practical methods for symptom control. We assist you in adopting healthier lifestyle practices, with an emphasis on exercise, diet, and sleep patterns, to improve your quality of life.

In addition, we offer psychological support services, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and techniques to manage stress, which aid in overcoming the emotional hurdles that come with fibromyalgia.

We are dedicated to guiding you towards a more fulfilling life, notwithstanding the obstacles posed by fibromyalgia.

Download our mobile app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for immediate access to some of our content and to see your support options.