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Are Fibromyalgia and PTSD Related?

Are Fibromyalgia and PTSD Related?

You survived a life-threatening trauma that required extreme physical challenges to get to safety. And now, you have pain and swelling in your knees and you find yourself struggling with fear and nightmares related to the experience. You have a hard time finishing small tasks and even lose sleep worrying. You may suffer from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition.


According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, “Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain and spinal cord process painful and nonpainful signals.” It’s a kind of arthritis – a tenderness and swelling in one or more joints – which affects about 4 million US adults, about 2% of the adult population, but is treatable.


PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health illness that some people get after suffering or witnessing a life-threatening event, such as a natural disaster, combat, a car accident, or assault. It’s associated with dysfunctional war veterans when, in fact, its symptoms – like irritability and severe hypervigilance – appear in men, women, and children. It’s a non-discriminatory condition that can lead to serious consequences if not treated properly. Some patients respond favorably to ketamine therapy.


It seems obvious that PTSD and fibromyalgia are related, but do facts support this conclusion?

In the journal PAIN, a “link between fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been suggested because both conditions share some similar symptoms. The temporal relationships between traumatic experiences and the onset of PTSD and FMS symptoms” wasn’t investigated thoroughly until a 2012 study in Germany. They concluded that “FMS and PTSD are linked in several ways: PTSD is a potential risk factor of FMS and vice versa. FMS and PTSD are comorbid conditions because they are associated with common antecedent traumatic experiences.”


Fibromyalgia comes and goes, flaring when least expected and making it hard to perform what should be simple tasks. But coping mechanisms exist and are worth exploring:

  • Have a daily plan for dealing with fibromyalgia, just in case.
  • Our thoughts affect our perception of pain, so avoid talking or thinking negatively about yourself.
  • Talk to a loved one or friend when you’re having a bad day. A support network is important in coping with it.


PTSD often responds most favorably to professional treatment, but even people who are committed to self-help routines have been known to control the symptoms. If you’ve decided to battle PTSD on your own, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recommends taking direct action to cope with stress. You also can practice mindfulness, join a peer support group, use pets – especially dogs – to help manage symptoms. Also, investigate online coaching and mobile apps for PTSD.


Diagnosing fibromyalgia normally involves seeing a medical doctor for a physical examination, while PTSD sufferers can expect a physical exam and mental health evaluation to uncover the source of their pain. Because the two are connected, it’s not unusual to receive a diagnosis for both conditions at the same time.


Treating PTSD

According to the National Center for PTSD, there are many ways to treat PTSD. Each person reacts differently to different kinds of treatment, but mental healthcare experts believe trauma-focused therapies may be the most successful because of supporting evidence collected over the years. No therapy is 100 percent successful, which is why people who suffer from PTSD are encouraged to try self-help techniques, peer support groups, and are sometimes referred for ketamine therapy. The medicine gained acceptance when used to treat wounded U.S. soldiers in Vietnam.

Treating fibromyalgia may include:

  • Medications, like prescription drugs and over-the-counter pain medicine
  • Muscle-strengthening exercises and aerobic exercises
  • Patient education courses, normally in primary care or community locations
  • Stress management methods such as massage, meditation, and yoga
  • Proper sleep habits to better the quality of sleep
  • Different kinds of psychotherapy, including talk therapy to alter the way people think or act


As already mentioned, ketamine therapy for PTSD and fibromyalgia is growing in popularity. Research indicates the medicine strengthens or repairs damaged neurotransmitters in the brain which are important for transmitting signals related to pain and how it’s perceived. The medicine works quickly and may offer relief for weeks or months.


What we’ve learned so far is that fibromyalgia and PTSD are not only related, but they can also happen at the same time in the same patient. The effects of both can be serious if left untreated, but thankfully, numerous care options are available, including using medicine and ketamine therapy.

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