A Closer Look
Rheumatoid Factor (RF)
RF is a measurement of rheumatoid factor hormone in your blood stream. People with RF in their blood cannot have polymyalgia rheumatica.
Concerning the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, there are no lab tests in existence that can accurately confirm a diagnosis. Your doctor may try to first rule out conditions with similar symptoms through the previously mentioned blood tests.
One thing that may be a telltale sign that you are dealing with polymyalgia (aside from the age factor that is a common thread) as opposed to fibromyalgia, is the fact that symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica tend to appear suddenly and without warning. Many sufferers develop severe pain in just a week or two, while others develop symptoms overnight. Fibromyalgia tends to creep up slowly on a patient before it is full-blown.
Now I Know — What Next?
Even though fibromyalgia and polymyalgia produce a few of the same symptoms and conditions, treatment is different because the causes are different.
Because polymyalgia is primarily a physical condition based on pain and stiffness, first-line treatment usually involves corticosteroids like prednisone to relieve symptoms. This is because treatment is targeted to reduce inflammation. For some people, daily doses of NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), are sufficient. Naproxen is also an anti-inflammatory sometimes used to relieve mild pain and swelling.
However, non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory medicines as well as anti-depressants only go so far and are relatively ineffective if the pain and swelling is more severe. More often, corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are required to control inflammation and moderate to severe pain. Steroid medication shows signs of improvement in patients within a few days, but may be continued for up to two years.
In addition, a healthy diet and exercise can help to manage pain and increase muscle flexibility and range of motion. Cardiovascular fitness exercise is much more beneficial than just treatment with medications alone. Another way you can better manage polymyalgia is to take steps to make your daily tasks go more smoothly — simple things like rolling suitcases when you travel and avoiding wearing high heels to prevent falls when you are stiff and in pain.
Fibromyalgia is improved with some of the same techniques as polymyalgia, but requires a more complex method of effective management. Conventional treatment of this condition with pain relievers and antidepressants is relatively ineffective. Even the designated medications such as Cymbalta, Lyrica and Savella only do so much if this is the only form of treatment and pain management. A low-fat diet and regular exercise can make a big difference in preventing and soothing the pain, stiffness and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia. FM sufferers may also feel better by practicing good sleep habits and pacing their activities to avoid overdoing it. Developing a routine of exercise and relaxation techniques that promote better sleep goes a long way to improving the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Knowledge Is Power
Experiencing the symptoms of either polymyalgia or fibromyalgia can be challenging and frustrating. Polymyalgia patients may have to contend with daily medication to ease their pain and stiffness. In addition to dealing with pain and fatigue, fibromyalgia patients may have to handle feeling misunderstood by others — even those in the healthcare community.
Use what you know about your condition to seek support from family, friends, co-workers, and your doctor. Taking steps to manage your specific symptoms can bring a feeling of control as well as relief. Share that knowledge with others who are walking the same path as you and you will soon realize that you are not alone and there is hope and life beyond and in spite of these frustrating and debilitating conditions.