Fibromyalgia and Polymyalgia wreck havoc on the lives of many (especially women), but few know the differences between the two as they often present the same symptoms. The suffix -myalgia even means “pain in the muscles”, which is a major component of both.
However, polymyalgia is an inflammatory disease which is defined as tissues responding protectively to injury or tissue destruction that it tries to block or destroy. In polymyalgia, pain and stiffness occurs in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and hips. Pain ranks as a predominate symptom of inflammatory diseases, making normal movements like bending difficult and also causing severe fatigue. Polymyalgia is believe to be an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its muscle.
Fibromyalgia is not an inflammatory disease, but derives from a hypersensitive nervous system which results in a painful inability to deal with temperature variances, normal everyday movements like bending, and severe fatigue. The onset usually occurs after a major physical trauma like a fall, a car wreck, or serving as a soldier. Nine tender points on each side of the body have been designated by doctors to cause pain and stiffness. So while the symptoms present the same, the origin and areas of the disease differ. The causes of polymyalgia and fibromyalgia remain unknown.
As previously mentioned, both conditions occur more frequently in women than men, but polymyalgia rarely occurs before the age of fifty, with a median onset age of two years. Furthermore, it often resolves within two or so years. Fibromyalgia is chronic, and can last a lifetime.
And although the symptoms are similar, the treatments differ. NSAIDs such as Advil are used for polymyalgia sufferers. NSAIDS reduce the inflammation. Fibromyalgia patients receive everything from anti-depressants and other medicines to deal with the debilitating pain and to encourage sleep. Stretching exercises such as yoga and non-impact exercises such as swimming are also recommended to lessen fibromyalgia symptoms. Fibromyalgia patients sometimes suffer from IBS as well.
One important thing to remember is that both polymyalgia and fibromyalgia cause extreme difficulties and as such, patients should take care to follow their doctor’s advice closely to minimize suffering.
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