When you have a form of spondyloarthritis like ankylosing spondylitis or psoriatic arthritis, you know that joint pain and stiffness can come and go, leaving you unsure what to expect.

Inflammatory arthritis refers to a group of conditions characterized by damage to the synovial lining of the joint. Read: Inflammatory Arthritis

Other symptoms can also appear that make you wonder whether they are part of your condition or something else: aches and pains that seem to originate from muscles rather than joints, fatigue, and general feelings of being unwell.

You may be right to suspect that something else is at play. Researchers have found that people with a form of spondyloarthritis—particularly women—are at increased risk for fibromyalgia.

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Why Inflammatory Arthritis May Increase Risk for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes a variety of far-ranging symptoms, but the most common are muscle aches, tenderness, and fatigue. Numerous studies have shown that those with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriatic arthritis have higher rates of fibromyalgia than the general population.1

See Characteristic Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Experts believe that inflammatory conditions may make people more prone to fibromyalgia because ongoing chronic pain can cause the body’s neurons to become more sensitized and more likely to overreact to stimuli. Whether this occurs seems to be influenced partly by genetics, as well as environmental and psychological factors.

Having both an inflammatory condition and fibromyalgia can complicate treatment and be frustrating for patients. This is because a disconnect can develop between the disease activity and pain experienced.

Patients with fibromyalgia may report significant levels of pain despite their inflammatory condition being well controlled. They are told that their treatment is working and their disease activity is low, yet they feel more pain, more stiffness, and worse quality of life than those without fibromyalgia.

What You Can Do to Get the Right Care

Unfortunately, there is no medical test that can determine whether someone has fibromyalgia. However, an experienced doctor should be able to detect its symptoms and how they’re different from the symptoms caused by an inflammatory condition like rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis.

See Fibromyalgia or Not? 6 Conditions to Know

If you have an inflammatory condition and are experiencing symptoms like tenderness, chronic muscle pain, or fatigue, talk with your doctor about whether it may be fibromyalgia. If your doctor isn’t receptive to feedback about your experience with pain and other symptoms—even if your condition seems to be under control—consider finding a new doctor.

See Doctors Who Treat Fibromyalgia

Learn more:

Multi-Specialty Fibromyalgia Treatment

Conditions Related to Inflammatory Arthritis

References:

  1. Mease PJ. Fibromyalgia, a missed comorbidity in spondyloarthritis: prevalence and impact on assessment and treatment. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2017;29(4):304-310.