If you’re experiencing symptoms of chronic pain, and you’ve gone online and entered your symptoms into a search bar, you may see results for fibromyalgia as well as multiple sclerosis.
Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis (MS) are two very distinct, different conditions. However, they can share similar symptoms and treatment options. You will need extensive tests for a medical diagnosis before you can be treated for either one.
In the meantime, it may help you to feel more prepared for whichever outcome to know the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for each.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder in the muscles that’s felt in the entire body. It has been known to make an individual feel drowsy, fatigued, moody, and affect their memory.
The causes for fibromyalgia are still unknown to medical researchers. It is believed that the condition is caused by some sort of trigger that makes the brain process pain signals incorrectly. Someone with fibromyalgia will feel pain much more intensely than someone who doesn’t suffer from this condition.
What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
Your brain and spinal cord have an encompassing, protective fatty coating called myelin. Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disorder whereby the T-cells accidentally attack the myelin – and scars, or sclerosis, are formed in their place. The T-cells can be activated by something as simple as the person fighting off a cold.
Most people’s bodies naturally attack and destroy bacteria and viruses; but for patients with MS, their body mistakes the healthy myelin as foreign, and begins to destroy the protective coating, thereby preventing the nerves from functioning as they should.
This is why MS is considered an autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system, because the immune system attacks the person’s own body. In the case of MS, the immune system specifically attacks the myelin layer.
Interestingly, the body can usually manufacture replacement myelin, but the new myelin isn’t usually as high in quality as the person’s original myelin. For this reason – and if the myelin is not replaced in the spot of a particular sclerosis – an MS symptom may never go away, or it may not improve fully. However, this is also how someone with MS may have a symptom that completely subsides, because the myelin has been completely replaced.
Symptoms of MS and Fibromyalgia
Below are the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia and of MS.
Typically, chronic pain that is caused by fibromyalgia is widespread throughout the body. Most patients describe it as an aching pain, or soreness.
Most doctors will diagnose an individual with fibromyalgia if they experience the chronic pain for a minimum of three months. Other than the pain, memory issues are a common symptom of fibromyalgia. It can cause a state of confusion, and difficulty recollecting or concentrating.
Depression and mood swings are also common symptoms of fibromyalgia. People with fibromyalgia are prone to fatigue and need long periods of sleep and rest. These people also often suffer from sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. They’re often unbearably tired and desperately want to sleep, but they are unable to rest.
People with MS may experience numbness and weakness in the areas where their nerves are damaged, due to the protective myelin layer exposing the nerve. They may develop an unsteady gait and have difficulty walking. Balance and coordination can also be a challenge for patients with MS.
Nerve communication with the brain can be slower where the myelin is broken down and sclerosis has formed. Speech mechanisms and clarity may be difficult. Vision problems, such as eye pain, double vision, and vision loss can also occur due to optic neuritis, which is an inflammation of the optic nerve that is usually caused by MS.
After being diagnosed with either fibromyalgia or MS, your doctor will suggest different treatments. Over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are often recommended for the pain. They may also suggest holistic approaches such as acupuncture, stress management, and massage therapy.
Lifestyle change suggestions usually include increasing your exercise, ensuring you get enough sleep, adjusting your diet, and reducing stress. Your doctor will also prescribe one or more medications to help treat and mitigate the specific condition.
Who Can Help My Pain from MS or Fibromyalgia?
If you’re struggling with pain from fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, or any other condition, we can help. Balcones Pain Consultants offer caring and experienced pain management in the Austin area.
Our pain specialists include board-certified physicians who are there to help you on your journey to wellness. Call us today at (512) 834-4141 for an appointment at one of our convenient locations in Austin, Cedar Park, and Marble Falls. You can also fill out our simple online appointment request form now. We look forward to helping you feel better and get back to enjoying life again.