Fibromyalgia and Multiple Sclerosis

Fibromyalgia and Multiple Sclerosis: What Are the Differences?

Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis are two diagnoses that you never want to hear from your doctor.

Both involve muscle and joint pain, and neither can be cured. There are treatments for both of these diseases, but there is no getting rid of them.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread, chronic pain throughout the body. The exact cause of it is unknown, but scientists have narrowed down some factors that play a role in developing the disease.

The symptoms of fibromyalgia include the following:

  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Memory problems and concentration issues
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Morning stiffness and aches
  • Sleep issues and fatigue
  • Numbness and tingling in hands, arms, legs, and feet
  • Tender or trigger points
  • Urinary problems such as pain or frequency
  • Rash/red skin particularly on the face

The constant pain patients experience is what often sends them to their doctor. It is the most common symptom of fibromyalgia, and can often be de-habilitating.

Fatigue is the second most common among fibromyalgia sufferers. Everyday activities such as ironing, grocery shopping or walking the dog can leave victims feeling extremely exhausted.

What Is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis is classified as an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spine. The disease attacks the proactive covering of nerves, which is called myelin.

This causes inflammation and often leaves the myelin damaged. Myelin is needed for the transmission of nerve impulses through nerve fibers. If the myelin damage is little, nerve impulses can travel with little disruption. However, if nerve damage is extreme, disruptions can be frequent causing damage to the nerve fibers.

Multiple Sclerosis is unpredictable and can differ greatly from person to person. It is often diagnosed in people ages fifteen to forty. The highest number of cases of multiple sclerosis in the world is in Canada.

The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary depending on the severity of the nerve damage.

Common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:

  • Balance issues and dizziness
  • Bladder issues
  • Bowel issues
  • Blurred vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Difficulty walking
  • Sensory impairment; numbness and tingling
  • Weakness
  • Sexual dysfunction

It is important to keep track of your symptoms when you first start experiencing them, so your doctor can determine the accurate diagnosis, and properly monitor the disease.

Fibromyalgia and Multiple Sclerosis

The Differences Between Fibromyalgia and Multiple Sclerosis

According to Debilitating Diseases, Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis are both potentially debilitating diseases that can lead to chronic pain.

Fibromyalgia is often characterized by muscle pain, stiffness in muscles, extreme fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Multiple Sclerosis has a variety of symptoms including vision problems, bladder control issues, muscle weakness, and painful muscle spasms.

There are similarities in some symptoms and the fact that both diseases are more common in women than in men. As well, neither has a specific cause known. However, there are massive distinctions between the two diseases as well.

Although fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis share a few similar symptoms they are very different conditions.

It is estimated that approximately five million people in America have fibromyalgia. Patients complain of widespread muscle pain and tenderness, generally in areas of the neck, shoulders, back, and hips.

Extreme muscle stiffness is often present in the morning but tends to fade throughout the day. Many with fibromyalgia experience insomnia and severe fatigue. Patients also experience headaches, anxiety, depression, and difficulty concentrating.

As already mentioned the cause of fibromyalgia has not been determined, but researchers believe it is linked to hormonal abnormalities and the immune system.

According to studies, approximately 300,000 people in the US suffer from multiple sclerosis. This is a significantly smaller number than those who are affected by fibromyalgia.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is classified as an autoimmune disorder, while fibromyalgia is not. An overactive immune system is believed to trigger an attack on the body and tissue on the spinal cord, which leads to MS symptoms.

Those who suffer from multiple sclerosis tend to experience blurry vision, difficulty walking and bladder control issues. MS symptoms tend to fluctuate over. Unlike fibromyalgia, they are not more intense in the morning.

Diagnosis of both diseases is often done by ruling out other causes. For fibromyalgia, the tender points are often what lead doctors to their final diagnosis. For multiple sclerosis, there are various tests including blood tests, spinal taps, and MRIs.

Treatments for Each Condition

The approach in treatment for fibromyalgia is different from that of multiple sclerosis patients.

Fibromyalgia can often be treated with over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or ibuprofen. Lifestyle changes can also help improve the symptoms of this disease.

These changes may include reducing stress, following a specific sleep schedule, exercising regularly and decreasing your caffeine intake.

Multiple sclerosis treatment may also include over-the-counter pain medication, but more often has prescribed medication as well as physical therapy, speech therapy, stress management and reduction, cognitive behavior therapy and acupuncture. Necessary lifestyle changes may include switching to a low-fat diet, increasing your fiber intake, stretching and exercising regularly.


While there are a few similarities in the symptoms and treatment of fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis, the two diseases differ greatly. Both are life-altering and difficult to diagnosis. Neither has been given a specific known cause. However, the similarities end there.

Fibromyalgia is much more common than multiple sclerosis affecting nearly seventeen times the number of people in the United States. MS affects vision, speech, cognitive behavior and a person’s ability to walk, while fibromyalgia does not. Fibromyalgia is characterized by a musculoskeletal pain, while multiple sclerosis is viewed as an autoimmune disease.

It is important to see your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms related to either of these diseases. Both require immediate attention and treatment to relieve your pain and discomfort. It is also necessary to note that it is possible to be diagnosed with both fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.