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Understanding the difference between Fibromyalgia and CRPS

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.

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16 responses to “Understanding the difference between Fibromyalgia and CRPS

  1. I was assaulted and lost use of my right hand, diagnosed crps June 2017. Lost everything. Any partner firms in the USA? No one seems to understand or care…I had a great job, great money, now I live with one hand and pain. Ideas?

    1. Dear Stacie,

      Unless the assault took place inside England or Wales, we are unfortunately unable to provide you with legal assistance.

      Wishing you all the very best,

      Brian Barr Solicitors

  2. Do you think fibromyalgia will have a cure one day? I have it and do you think Surgery could cause it? I had a history of have fibroids had two surgeries they removed one said it was about to fall out of me. The second one they did a parcel hysterectomy. Oct 2011. All of a sudden Jan 2012 I started having back pains didn’t think anything of it then all of a sudden my neck started OK finally went to the doctor I was diagnosis with fibromyalgia. Over the years it’s gotten much worse, doctors throw me away I guess no insurance and because they say there is nothing they can do because it’s no cure. So all I do is hurt can’t work anymore I’m barely hanging on. Just looking to see do I have a case. If not I got to keep trying for disability and keep hurting.

    1. Dear Vickie,

      I am sorry to hear about the deterioration in your health that may have been due to clinical negligence.

      Here at Brian Barr’s, we are a team of fully qualified solicitors that specialise in clinical negligence claims as just one of our areas of expertise.

      In order to consider your claim, we will need to obtain some more details from you. You can contact us either by filling out our online form or by calling us on 0161 737 9248. Alternatively you can send us your number and one of our team will contact you within the next 24 hours.

      Wishing you all the very best,

      Brian Barr Solicitors

    2. I am living in Mexico now,i have CRPS. I am seeing a dr of regenerative medicine. She herself had fibromyalgia and was miserable on 14 different meds. She gave herself stem cell treatments and cured the fibro completly!! She is off all meds and feels great. ALL her fibro patients are improving. I am doing stem cell therapy and bovine nerve growth factor. She has never treated CRPS so i am her first. I am very hopeful. I think the NGF is helping more. Stem cell therapy can cure!! But its EXTREMELY expensive in the US. I am so glad i found this. Good luck!!

  3. I keep coming back to the diagnosis and the complications I went through withbotjthe implant ofynrpumpand the removal of the pump. The removal theDr was made because we went over his head to get it done. He is only an anesthesiologist not a surgeon and these device manufacturers give kick backs to these doctors for implanting their hardware whether it is right or not. I think in my case the doctor for edtbecatherter in and hurt me badly. It tore a hole in my spine that developed a spinal leakage bubble that hurt like hell. When he was forced to remove the pump he took no time or patience to properly pull the catheter out and it tore a bad hole in my spine that felt like someone was standing on my back and my head while forcing my feet to burn like there was no tomorrow. I can’t leave my house anymore the pain is too great so death is my only option and itt will get here soon I’m beginning to go crazy with the pain and no way of relief. My feet have never felt like this it’s ungodly and my doctor said there is nothing he can do and he doesn’t know what this foot pain is. HES A LIAR and it’s amatter of time before he pays.

  4. I have been diganoused with both of these, severe pain I’ve had RSD since 1995, and Fibromyaliga like within 10 years the pain is just so far off the charts

  5. Hello
    I reside in the USA and due to severe trauma of being falsely accused of a felony crime to intentionally cause my arrest by an act of retaliation my symptoms are now extremely debilitating and cause me to be incapacitated every single day of my life. I need to find an attorney to help me fight a very powerful insurance company that has been putting me through hell and forcing me to travel long distances to attend court hearing etc. Please advise if anyone knows of a firm that might be able to help me. This has been nearly impossible and I almost didn’t survive. Thank You.

  6. My daughter and I both have fibromyalgia, is this a coincidence, is this rare, can it be hereditary? My other daughter hasn’t seen her dr yet, but experiences similarities.

    1. Hi Maria,

      I’m sorry to hear that.

      As we do not provide medical services, I would recommend contacting your local healthcare provider with your query.

      Please feel free to contact us though if you require any legal assistance. You can do this either through our website inquiry form, or by calling us on 0161 737 9248.

      Wishing you all the very best,

      Brian Barr Solicitors

  7. I was injured back in 1992 i ended up with fibromyalgia. I went through 3 attorney’s an ended up having to defend my self in workers compensation court a lost. I have spent the time since being disabled in pain an addicted to drugs once the pain. What if anything can i do.

    Thank you
    Misty Earles

    1. Hi Misty
      I was assaulted at work and the pain started.
      Then after job loss I developed CRPS in my right ankle.
      I didn’t receive compensation.
      Because I have had depression and anxiety in the past the G.Ps did not believe my diagnosis ?
      I have been left disabled and addicted to morphine and sleeping tablets.
      I send you a gentle hug x


    1. Dear Karen,

      I’m sorry to hear about your Fibromyalgia diagnosis.

      In answer to your query, you may very well be entitled to reclaim.

      Here at Brian Barr’s, we are a team of fully qualified solicitors that specialise in Fibromyalgia claims as one of our areas of expertise. As an indication of our expertise, we achieved a 92% success rate for all our compensation claims last year.

      However, in order to consider your claim, we will need to obtain further details from you. You can contact us either by filling out our online inquiry form that you can find by clicking here or by calling us on 0161 737 9248.

      Wishing you all the very best,

      Brian Barr Solicitors

  9. Hi,

    I was injured in a non fault car accident in 2010. I settled for £2400 but still suffered awful pain in my arm. I then ruptured my leg in 2015 and developed crps. The pain clinic consultant thought the perhaps I had crps in the right arm that was injured in the crash and that my leg was a secondary of the condition. I have since broken my other arm and now it is also affected. What I would like to know is can I claim retrospectively about the arm that was damaged in the car crash in 2010 now that crps has developed?

    1. Hi Celeste,

      Thank you for your enquiry.

      I am sorry to hear of how you are being affected by CRPS. Unfortunately, it would not possible to reopen your claim from 2010.

      Wishing you all the best,

      Yossi – Brian Barr Solicitors

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