Are fibromyalgia and peripheral neuropathy related?

People tend to confuse peripheral neuropathy with fibromyalgia.

However, when you study further, you’ll discover many differences in how both conditions lead to pain and discomfort.

Peripheral neuropathy is a collection of disorders in which peripheral nerve fibers become damaged. Its symptoms are usually constant. On the other hand, people with fibromyalgia may experience similar symptoms, but they come and go.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes widespread muscle pain. Research says that people with this health issue may be more sensitive to pain than people without it. Although its cause is not yet identified, the symptoms can be treated and managed.

What are the first signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia’s symptoms often begin after an event that triggers pain, such as physical trauma, surgery, infection, or stress. Some of its most common symptoms include:

  • Pain all over the body
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Headaches

There are many conditions and illnesses which can cause these symptoms so a diagnosis of fibromyalgia should not be given until your doctor has properly assessed your health and ruled out other causes. 

What diseases are linked to fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a complex illness which often will occur in the absence of any other conditions but  may be accompanied by other conditions affecting your health . Below are some health issues that are sometimes associated with fibromyalgia.   The reasons for these associations are not well understood.

  • Headaches
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Restless legs
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Pelvic pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Obesity
Obesity

What is peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy refers to the damage of the peripheral nervous system –  the part of the nervous system that consists of the nerves branching out from the brain and spinal cord.

The peripheral nerves are the ones responsible for sending messages between the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord) and the rest of the body.

peripheral neuropathy

What causes neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathies can develop as a result of a few distinct causes:

Generalized diseases

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Infections
  • Poor nutrition
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Kidney or liver disorders
  • Vascular and blood disorders

Injury

 Mechanical pressure is a common cause of neuropathy.  Disc herniations, sciatic nerve compression and carpal tunnel syndrome are common causes of mechanical pressure.  Physical injury  such as impact in sport or at work, falling down the stairs or stepping on sharp objects may all injure peripheral nerves.

Alcohol and toxins

Nerve damage is most likely to happen when a person has a severe alcohol use disorder or long exposure to toxic chemicals like solvents and insecticides.

Infections and autoimmune disorders

Viruses and bacteria can create a painful condition where nerve endings are damaged. This happens to people who have suffered from chickenpox, AIDS, Lyme disease, and shingles.

Difference between fibromyalgia and neuropathy

  Fibromyalgia Peripheral Neuropathy
Causes In most cases, the cause of fibromyalgia is not fully understood.  Some believe that genetics, infections, or physical or emotional trauma may contribute. damage to the peripheral nerves caused by traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, and exposure to toxins
Symptoms muscle pain, sleep problems, memory issues, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression weakness, tingling, burning sensations, numbness, and pain mainly on hands, arms, legs, and feet
Symptom Frequency Recurring or constant Constant
Nerve testing Result No abnormalities   Abnormalities in the nerve fibers are present.

Both Fibromyalgia and Peripheral Neuropathy are challenging conditions that can have a substantial impact on your well-being. When well managed, the pain and disruption to your life can be minimized. Contact MSK Health and Performance Clinic and let us help get you back to the life you love. If necessary we will refer you to your family physician to ensure that all possible causes of your condition are properly assessed.