If you have been experiencing ongoing symptoms of pain, fatigue, and muscle stiffness, you may be wondering if you actually have fibromyalgia syndrome. Unfortunately, diagnosing fibromyalgia syndrome isn’t all that easy. Many fibromyalgia symptoms are also found in other illnesses. Osteoarthritis (OA) is often confused with fibromyalgia, and can sometimes occur concurrently with the syndrome. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, which is responsible for causing intense joint pain and stiffness. When visiting with your health care provider, be sure to bring up osteoarthritis as a possible cause for your symptoms.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis, currently affecting over 20 million Americans. Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is an illness that affects the condition of the cartilage in your joints. Cartilage is located between your joints to help facilitate movement. Without it, your joints will rub together, causing pain, stiffness, and impaired range of motion. Osteoarthritis occurs when your joint cartilage begins to break down, causing pain and suffering.
Osteoarthritis and Fibromyalgia
Osteoarthritis is often confused with fibromyalgia, because it shares many of the same symptoms. Overlapping symptoms include:
- muscle pain
- morning stiffness
- limited range of motion
At one point, fibromyalgia was actually considered a form of arthritis, adding to the difficulty of making an appropriate diagnosis. When considering your diagnosis, it is important to recognize the minor differences between the two illnesses. If you have fibromyalgia, it is likely that you will have more widespread pain. Osteoarthritis pain tends to be localized to the joint area.
It is possible to have both fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis at the same time. Between 10% and 15% of osteoarthritis sufferers have fibromyalgia too.
Types of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis can be classified according to the specific place in your body that it strikes. Osteoarthritis commonly affects the:
Who Gets Osteoarthritis?
Anyone can get osteoarthritis. The condition affects men and women, young and old, from all different backgrounds. However, there are a few risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing osteoarthritis. These include:
- being over 65 (50% of the population has developed osteoarthritis by the age of 65)
- being female
- being obese
- having had previous joint trauma
Cause of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is generally caused by age. As you grow older, wear and tear on your joints, tendons, and cartilage begins to take its toll. Water begins to build up in your cartilage and the protein inside your cartilage degenerates. Gradually, cartilage is worn away inside certain joints.
Osteoarthritis is sometimes caused by other illnesses. These include:
- trauma or injury to the area
Symptoms of osteoarthritis vary from person to person. Symptoms also depend upon which joints are affected by your osteoarthritis. Most patients will suffer from:
- joint pain
- pain that gets worse later in the day
- stiffness after periods of rest or inactivity
- loss of range of motion
- swelling, redness, or hotness in the joints
Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoarthritis. However, there are steps that can be taken to help limit disability and slow down the degenerative process. Treatment for osteoarthritis generally takes a multifaceted approach and includes:
- weight management
- medications for pain relief for osteoarthritis
- physical therapy
- occupational therapy
- alternative osteoarthritis treatments, like acupuncture and massage