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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: Similarities and Contrasts with Fibromyalgia - Prohealth

Last updated: 02-12-2020

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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: Similarities and Contrasts with Fibromyalgia - Prohealth

Fibromyalgia (FM) and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) share something in common—neuroinflammation. A review of the literature in 2015, Neurogenic neuroinflammation in fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome, says there are differing degrees to which neurogenic neuroinflammation might contribute to the multifactorial path of disease origin of both CRPS and FM. Another study in 2017 suggests a possible association between FM and the development of CRPS after distal radius fracture. Researchers concluded:

“While the basis of the association between fibromyalgia and CRPS is unknown, our data suggest that it could serve as a useful predictor of CRPS risk, promoting increased vigilance for CRPS symptoms and earlier recognition and treatment, thereby improving patient outcomes.”

November’s awareness for CRPS is an opportunity to read more about CRPS and how it may sometimes be confused with or accompany fibromyalgia.

What do CRPS and FM share?

Side note: According to a Rheumatology Advisor article, The Role of Neurogenic Inflammation in Fibromyalgia Pathophysiology, neurogenic inflammation has been implicated in the pathophysiology of numerous diseases, including fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome, migraine, and irritable bowel and bladder syndromes.

CRPS is a very painful chronic condition characterized by severe burning, abnormal changes in bone and skin, local excessive sweating, tissue swelling, and extreme sensitivity to touch.  According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Fact Sheet, diagnosis is based on a person’s medical history and signs and symptoms that match the definition and may be more difficult to diagnose later in the course of the disorder.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by abnormal body-wide chronic pain and tenderness, cognitive problems, fatigue, and often, disordered sleep. Additional symptoms and disorders may accompany fibromyalgia.

Many symptoms of CRPS and FM are similar and they can mimic other health disorders, but the defining feature between the two is that the pain of CRPS is concentrated in the injured/physically damaged area, and fibromyalgia pain and/or tenderness is body-wide. Shared symptoms are marked (*).

Complex regional pain syndrome and FM share some symptoms, and though some others are similar, they are different.

While there are similarities between CRPS and fibromyalgia, there are also vast differences. That said, with a focus on neuroinflammation and its role in both disorders, there could be some good news as Dr. LittleJohn tells Rheumatology Advisor author, Cindy Lampner, “there has been recent approval of a monoclonal antibody to the pro-inflammatory calcitonin gene-related peptide for use in migraine, a condition also characterized by neuroinflammation.”

Celeste Cooper, RN, is a frequent contributor to ProHealth.  She is an advocate, writer and published author, and a person living with chronic pain. Celeste is lead author of Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain and Broken Body, Wounded Spirit, and Balancing the See Saw of Chronic Pain (a four book series). She spends her time enjoying her family and the rewards she receives from interacting with nature through her writing and photography. You can learn more about Celeste’s writing, advocacy work, helpful tips, and social network connections at CelesteCooper.com.


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