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MS vs. fibromyalgia: Similarities, differences and treatments

There is no known cure for fibromyalgia or MS. Both are life-altering and have similar symptoms.

New advancements in science and technology have produced new treatments and exercises that can help remedy symptoms of these disorders.

Similarities and differences in symptoms

MS and fibromyalgia are similar, yet different, diseases. They have similar symptoms, which can make a proper diagnosis difficult.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 400,000 Americans currently suffer from MS. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 4 million Americans have fibromyalgia.

Women are two to three times more likely to develop MS or fibromyalgia than men, according to reports from the CDC and

Overlapping symptoms include chronic pain, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, headaches, systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and memory issues.

In addition to these symptoms, both have unique symptoms. A person with fibromyalgia may experience mood swings, sleep disorders and nausea, while those with MS can have difficulty walking, slurred speech and vision problems.


Currently, there is little known about fibromyalgia other than it is a musculoskeletal disease that increases a person’s sensitivity to pain. It was not considered to be a disease by the American Medical Association until 1987, which contributes to the more limited research.

A New York Times report indicated doctors will perform a pressure-point test on those who are suspected of having fibromyalgia. If the patient experiences unbearable pain in at least half of the 18 pressure points, and the patient has been experiencing consistent pain for more than three months, he or she will most likely be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system and destroys myelin, a protective coating that surrounds the nerves.

MS is diagnosed through a neurological exam and various tests, including an MRI, evoked potentials and spinal fluid analysis.

If a brain lesion is found through testing, a person will likely be diagnosed with MS and undergo treatment by a physician.

Treatments and advancements

Some treatments for MS and fibromyalgia are the same, including pain medications, acupuncture and physical therapy.

According to, lifestyle changes also can help remedy symptoms of both diseases. Changes include exercise, such as low-impact swimming and weightlifting, yoga, walking and stretching. Reducing caffeine intake, reducing stress, improving one’s sleep schedule and having a healthy diet also may help.

For MS patients in particular, websites such as and the Lumosity app may help increase cognitive function and reduce memory loss.

In March, a drug called Ocrevus was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat relapsing-remitting MS, which is the most common type. In a trial of 1,600 volunteers, the drug cut relapses in MS patients in half when compared to the drug Rebif, another common MS treatment that has been on the market since 2002.

Ocrevus is given to patients every six months by injection and targets B-cells, a type of immune cell that countermeasures MS.

Because the notoriety of fibromyalgia is becoming more prevalent, scientists are looking into multiple methods of treatment.

Until recently, drugs such as Lyrica and antidepressants Cymbalta and Savella were the only prescription medication that had been approved for fibromyalgia treatment, according to However, in recent years, the same report indicated marijuana has been approved as a treatment for fibromyalgia patients in states where the drug is legal for medicinal use.

The National Pain Foundation conducted a study in 2014 of 1,300 people who take prescription drugs for fibromyalgia. In the study, patients were asked to try marijuana and compare the effectiveness of pain relief to their current medication.

While using marijuana for medical treatment may still be controversial, the study found that 62 percent of participants said the treatment was very effective in treating their symptoms while 33 percent said it helped a little. Five percent said it did not help at all.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by HERALDPALLDIUM
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length 
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