It's common for people with fibromyalgia (FMS) to have more than one pain condition. In fact, some people have several of them.
Autoimmune conditions, which typically involve pain, appear to be a risk factor for FMS. Other pain conditions may also be a risk factor. Some researchers theorize that painful illnesses may contribute to something called central sensitization, which means that the brain and spinal cord become extra sensitive to certain stimuli, such as pain. Central sensitization is theorized to be a key component of FMS. When another pain condition leads to FMS, the FMS is considered secondary.
Some pain conditions may share underlying physiology with FMS, which causes them both to manifest in many of the same people.
Overlapping Autoimmune Conditions
Autoimmunity causes your body's immune system to attack healthy tissues as if they were infectious agents. The damage causes painful inflammation (among other symptoms).
Autoimmune conditions that frequently overlap with FMS include:
- Lupus: This condition can take many forms and can target any part of the body, but common targets include the skin, joints, heart, lungs, blood, brain and kidneys. Learn more about lupus.
- Hashimoto's Autoimmune Thyroiditis: In Hashimoto's, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and causes low thyroid hormone levels. Learn more about Thyroid Problems & FMS.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): RA most frequently impacts the small joints of the hands and feet, but it can also involve other joints and even organs. It's usually progressive and can be severe. Learn more about rheumatoid arthritis.
It's a common misconception that FMS is considered an autoimmune disease. For more information, see Why Isn't FMS Considered Autoimmune?
Other Overlapping Pain Conditions
Some of the pain conditions that are common in people with FMS include:
- Costochondritis: This condition involves painful inflammation where the breastbone connects to the ribs. Learn more about costochondritis.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS involves intestinal pain and other digestive symptoms including constipation and/or diarrhea, nausea, and bloating. Learn more about IBS.
- Interstitial Cystitis (IC): IC causes abdominal or pelvic pain resulting from a full bladder. It can also involve urination frequency, urgency and discomfort, as well as pain related to intercourse. Learn more about interstitial cystitis.
- Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS): MPS involves small, hard knots in the connective tissues that are called trigger points. Trigger points are painful, especially when poked or rubbed, but they can also cause pain in other areas, which is called referred pain. Learn more about myofascial pain syndrome.
- Raynaud's Syndrome: In this condition, the blood vessels constrict, leading to inadequate blood flow. That leads to cold extremities as well as pain. The cold can be so severe that it leads to tissue damage. Learn more about Raynaud's syndrome
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ): TMJ causes jaw pain along with popping, clicking, and limited range of motion. In severe cases, the jaw may lock. TMJ can also cause headaches. Learn more about temporomandibular joint disorder.
Living With Multiple Pain Conditions
When you have more than one pain condition, it's important for each one to be diagnosed and treated. Many of them require different types of treatment and management.
As you lower your pain load from non-FMS sources, it may help calm your FMS symptoms. If you suspect you have undiagnosed pain conditions, be sure to talk to your doctor about it.