Understanding the difference between Fibromyalgia and CRPS


This blog was written thanks to the expertise of our team, including Alex Cohen, Philip Cohen and Steven Akerman, leading experts in compensation claims for chronic pain and serious injury.

Fibromyalgia and CRPS are both chronic and debilitating pain syndromes. Although they do share similarities, the two conditions are completely different. In this blog, we detail how.


Fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, are often confused; each condition causes extreme, constant pain which, unfortunately, remains incurable. In some ways, the two conditions are very similar, however, in reality, they are completely different to one another, which is something we know all too well as an expert law firm handling both fibromyalgia and CRPS compensation claims. In this blog, we look at each of the two disorders, focusing on their symptoms and how they are diagnosed, as well as the reasons as to why they are so distinctive from one another. To find out more, continue reading.

There are some obvious similarities between fibromyalgia and CRPS; both cause pain severe enough to be life-changing and can lead to extreme difficulty with movement. Symptoms of each condition are said to be aggravated by changes in temperature, which is something that has been proven to be true in previous studies. This being said, however, there are significant differences between each disease.

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. It is thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves) processes pain messages that are carried through and around the body. It can be triggered spontaneously or, in many cases, by an accident or trauma.

Contrastingly, the majority of CRPS cases are triggered by an injury or surgical procedure. The pain caused by fibromyalgia is incredibly painful and the same can be said for CRPS; as a condition, it causes intense pain and a wide variety of accompanying painful symptoms.

Fibromyalgia has a tendency to come and go into remission for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. It is much rarer for that to happen with CRPS. Unlike patients with fibromyalgia, those with CRPS tend to exhibit changes in skin colour and temperature at the site of the original tissue injury. In some cases, skin in the affected limb may be hot, red and dry, whereas other times it may be cold, blue and sweaty. Most patients also describe a lack of strength, difficulty moving the affected body part, muscle spasm and tremors, as well as abnormal limb posture.

Diagnosing both fibromyalgia and CRPS can be difficult as symptoms of each condition mimic many other conditions. Diagnosis of fibromyalgia includes a three-month history of widespread pain in at least 11 of 18 tender point sites, which are not the same as trigger sites. Tender points hurt only when pressed. With fibromyalgia, fatigue is almost always present and can be extreme at times. Sufferers tend to wake with body aches and stiffness and, while pain tends to improve during the day, it often increases again during the evening. Cold, damp weather, anxiety and stress can aggravate symptoms. Most fibromyalgia patients have an associated sleep disorder, as their deep level sleep is interrupted by constant bouts of awake-like brain activity.

The long-term pain of CRPS is usually confined to one limb, although it can spread to other areas of the body. The skin of the affected body part can become extremely sensitive to touch, so much so that just a slight touch, bump or even a change in temperature can provoke intense pain and affected areas can become swollen, stiff or undergo fluctuating changes in colour or temperature.

If you think you may have fibromyalgia or CRPS, it is important that you discuss your symptoms and any possible treatment with your GP. If you have contracted either of these conditions through an accident or injury that wasn’t your fault, you may be eligible for compensation. At Brian Barr Solicitors, we have vast experience of handling claims for a wide variety of patients and will handle your case with the utmost care and sensitivity. To discuss whether or not you have a claim, call us for free on 0161 737 9248 or click here to fill in our online contact form.

We do not endorse any research, studies or sources mentioned within our blogs and comments. Furthermore, we do not endorse any medical advice provided, and would strongly recommend anyone seeking medical advice to contact their local healthcare provider.

To learn more about our success stories, and get the legal support of leading specialists in the field, call us on 0161 737 9248.

Meet the team

Steven Akerman

Steven Akerman

Personal Injury Solicitor &
Director, Brian Barr

Alex Cohen

Alex Cohen

Personal Injury Solicitor &
Director, Brian Barr

Philip Cohen

Philip Cohen

Director, Brian Barr

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