Studies have shown that there is a link between Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis. In fact, up to 20% of people who have Fibro also have Arthritis. However, because symptoms can overlap, people with Fibromyalgia don’t always know that they also have Osteoarthritis.
Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal condition just like Osteoarthritis is. However, with Fibro, the pain and stiffness are more widespread and not just located in the joints. The pain also shows up in muscles and at particular trigger points along the body. Additionally, Fibromyalgia has other symptoms including:
- Exhausting fatigue
- Sleep difficulties
- Hypersensitivity to heat/cold
- Numbness in fingers and toes
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Chronic headaches
Osteoarthritis is caused mostly by aging and is a degenerative joint disease. Like Fibromyalgia, it can cause extreme joint pain and stiffness, though unlike Fibromyalgia, pain is usually localized in the joint area. Over one half of the population will develop some degree of arthritis by age 65. It is an eroding of the cartilage which is located between the joints. Its purpose is to provide protection against injury and act as a cushion where two bones meet. When the cartilage is damaged or desiccated, it causes bone on bone contact which can be really painful. Also, bones can “over grow” in joint areas causing painful spurs. Trauma or repetitive motion can cause arthritis as well.
Joint pain, stiffness, and loss of range of motion are all symptoms of Osteoarthritis. Usually the pain is worse later in the day and more stiffness is felt after periods of inactivity. Changes in weather can exacerbate symptoms of both Fibro and Osteoarthritis.
Why are People Who Have Fibromyalgia More Prone to Osteoarthritis?
There are a few different theories regarding why someone afflicted with Fibromyalgia might be more prone to Osteoarthritis. Patients with Fibro tend to try and minimize their pain and the amount of movement they are doing on a daily basis. This inactivity contributes to the joints getting stiffer. Inactivity can also cause weight gain and the more stress there is on a joint, the greater the chances are of it turning arthritic. Inactivity and obesity are the two biggest causes of Osteoarthritis.
Folks who have Fibro are also more likely to compensate for painful areas by moving or walking in ways that put added pressure on certain joints which, in turn, can cause arthritis.
There is no cure for Osteoarthritis, however there are methods that can be used to control it in most cases. In worst case scenarios, surgery is sometimes required to replace the joint such as in hip or knee replacement procedures.
Treatment for Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis
Treatment for those that suffer from both of these conditions can be a bit tricky because exercise is the most effective way to treat Osteoarthritis. It is also one of the best ways to help keep Fibro symptoms under control. However, Fibromyalgia flares can sometimes be triggered by physical exertion. Fatigue, a common symptom of Fibro, also makes it difficult to get motivated and start an exercise routine.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Do not start an exercise program of any kind if you are experiencing a Fibro flare. Wait until symptoms are more calmed down.
- Start slowly. In the beginning, you may want to start with some simple stretching exercises to include range of motion type movements of your joints.
- If you are able, enlist the help of a physical therapist, especially in the beginning. They can show you ways to get temporary relief from stiffness or pain to help your body adjust to more active-type exercises. They are also experts at identifying problems with posture or gait which may actually be making your pain worse. Because they are trained in anatomy, they can help you to strengthen areas which might be causing imbalances.
- Stick with low-impact types of exercise such as yoga, swimming, or Pilates.
- Walking is also an excellent form of exercise that will build endurance and help to shed unwanted pounds. You may only be able to walk down the street in the beginning and gradually increase endurance.
- Do not do any kind of exercise that is jarring to your body such as running.
- Using a bicycle or an elliptical is also an effective and low-impact exercise.
- Weight training can also be a low-impact way to build strength and gain more range of motion.
- Drink a lot of water. Aside from keeping you hydrated and feeling better, it will also help to flush out lactic acid from your muscles (this is a common side effect of starting an exercise regime)
- Omega 3s, like those found in Fish Oil, help to keep joints lubricated and can minimize inflammation and discomfort.
The Value of Exercise in Preventing Osteoarthritis
Many Fibromyalgia sufferers complain that exercise worsens pain. This can certainly be true when you are starting out, but the more you move and gain mobility, the better you will feel after you get through the initial adjustment period. With that said, know your limits and when to back off. It’s normal to be a little sore after exercising, but if you find that you are relapsing or causing a flare to happen, then ease up. The important thing is to keep trying, even if it’s just a little bit each day. If you can see your way through getting started on an exercise regimen, no matter how light, you will feel the benefits of it for sure.
Recovery from Osteoarthritis is not possible without some form of exercise or movement of the joints. Physical activity also tremendously helps alleviate symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Some people say that It can take 5 or 6 weeks before they begin feeling better, but when they do, results can be exponential. Energy levels increase, pain levels decrease, and you will feel healthier because you are healthier. In fact, many sufferers also say that exercise provides more relief than pain medications once a routine is established.
For more information about exercising if you have Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis, click HERE to see what the Arthritis Foundation has to say.
I highly recommend discussing any type of new exercise program with your doctor.