Swelling and Fibromyalgia


Image: Shutterstock.com/Tharakorn

Osteoarthritis is the most common musculoskeletal condition, followed by fibromyalgia. More often than not, fibromyalgia is misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Characteristics of this disorder/condition include muscle and joint pain/tingling, fatigue, and many other symptoms. Quite often, individuals who have fibromyalgia also experience social isolation and depression. Many also experience both swelling and fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is very difficult to diagnose. The main reason for this is because the symptoms of fibromyalgia are often in line with the symptoms of other illnesses, which leads to the individual being misdiagnosed. One of the most basic symptoms of fibromyalgia is swelling and inflammation. Due to this fibromyalgia swelling, it can sometimes be confused with arthritis. This is due to the fact that both fibromyalgia and arthritis affect the joints.

Comparing Fibromyalgia and Arthritis

Though fibromyalgia does exhibit many of the same symptoms of arthritis and the two conditions are often confused, there are some differences.

Individuals who have fibromyalgia typically experience more of a feeling that their joints are swelling rather than the joints actually swelling. Additionally, an individual who has fibromyalgia may actually experience what is known as a “creepy crawly” sensation on their bodies, which is very uncomfortable for them. Though it’s almost the same as with arthritis, the “swelling” of the joints that is part of fibromyalgia isn’t actually swelling at all, but a feeling of swelling.

Arthritis is actually swelling and damage within the joints. Individuals who are affected by arthritis can also be affected by fibromyalgia. The swelling that is caused by the fibromyalgia in this case is typically in the feet and hands.

This can be used to find out if the individual is suffering from fibromyalgia or arthritis. The swelling of the hands and feet in those suffering from fibromyalgia actually resembles edema, while the swelling in those suffering from arthritis is primarily located in the joints.

There is no specific cause of fibromyalgia. However, there are several risk factors that contribute to the occurrence of arthritis in individuals.

Genetic variations could possibly contribute to arthritis, though researchers don’t completely understand the role played by genetics in this disorder. Due to the fact that as individuals age, the cartilage becomes much more brittle and loses its capacity to repair itself.

Joint damage depends on the amount of weight that the joints must support, so body weight can cause an individual to develop arthritis. These factors and others can all contribute to arthritis, but don’t necessarily have anything to do with an individual developing fibromyalgia.

How to Control Fibromyalgia Swelling

One of the most important things to remember is that the swelling in individuals with fibromyalgia will never be located in the areas that are painful. The amount of swelling and fibromyalgia is actually directly related to the amount of stress that the affected individual is currently undergoing.

If the individual is under very minimum emotional stress, the swelling on their body will be barely noticeable. If the individual is under a lot of emotional stress, then the swelling will be obvious. Therefore, the amount of swelling on the individual’s body indicates their present emotional condition. This exacerbates swelling and fibromyalgia.

If you find that as a fibromyalgia patient, you are experiencing swelling and fibromyalgia, do what you can to calm down and relax. The more stressed out you get, the more you will begin to swell. The calmer you are, the more that swelling is going to go away.

Swelling is one of the most common symptoms that an individual with fibromyalgia will experience. Both swelling and inflammation are one of the first thing an individual will notice when there is a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. This is what makes it so difficult to diagnose- the swelling takes on the appearance of arthritis. The swelling can actually occur at any time and almost anywhere on your body. It can last a short time or a long time.

Understanding Swelling and Fibromyalgia

Many times, medical professionals will diagnose arthritis, when actually the swelling and inflammation is actually because of fibromyalgia. However, as mentioned earlier, there is a major difference between the two: arthritis affects the joints, while the swelling and inflammation due to fibromyalgia does not.  Since the swelling in individuals with fibromyalgia is not in the joints, it can actually look more like edema. Most of the time, those who are experiencing this type of swelling also complain that the skin in those swollen areas turns red- but this is not always the case.

Though the fibromyalgia swelling can occur almost anywhere on the body, it is most commonly found in the feet and hands. Most of the time, those who report swelling in their feet often report that the swelling extends up toward their lower legs. Some individuals even report that their swelling is only on some of their toes.

Swelling related to fibromyalgia can disappear and appear without even a warning. It can last for a few hours, days, or weeks at a time. Sometimes, individuals will even report that their feet swell so large that they cannot wear their shoes. If you are experiencing this level of swelling, you must know that there are some things that you can do to counteract this.

As mentioned before, many people believe that inflammation and swelling related to fibromyalgia is directly linked to the level of stress in an individual’s life. So, if you have fibromyalgia and you’re suffering from swelling due to your disorder, you will want to do what you can to reduce- or even totally avoid- stress in your personal life. Additionally, getting lots of rest may prove to help reduce or prevent swelling.

Though swelling and fibromyalgia is very common for those suffering from the disorder, it is not the same inflammation and swelling that is present with arthritis. Additionally, though there really isn’t a specific cause or cure that can be pointed to, researchers do hold hope that a few simple changes in lifestyle can help to control it. By simply making sure to get lots of rest and relaxation, and eliminating as much stress as possible from your life, you can make sure that the swelling and inflammation doesn’t keep occurring.



  • Elle

    I have both Fibromyalgia and arthritis and have to inform you your article is incorrect and misleading. You really should speak to people who have it before writing such rubbish.

    • Rosy Doherty

      People should open their minds to realise that like any condition everyone is different. I get swelling too in feet and hands and when all the different pain levels and different pains are trying to outrun each other. I suppose the body has to show this overwhelming pain all hitting at once ,some kind of reaction and can’t hide it on the outside, when there is so much going on inside! I think it is very disrespectful to rubbish other people symptoms just cuz they don’t experience them them

    • Lynne Morgan

      its not incorrect and misleading for the lady that wrote it. Its bang on accurate for her.

    • nyaan

      every individual is unique and so are the ways this condition reflects upon them. i have both SLE and Fibromyalgia, and what is explained here resonates well with me. it may not to you since you are another unique individual. but you really can’t dismiss it as absolute garbage.

  • Shari Sheehan

    In response to Elle. I’ve had Fibro for over 20 years. Everyone is different. I happen to have exactly the symptom described and you most certainly can tell when I’m under huge emotional stress. My hands and feet swell. Not rubbish in my case.

    • Cynthia Appleby-Barone

      I swell upper collarbone area near the sternocleidomastoid muscle that goes up behind the ear especially when I’m stressed ! I do also get swelling in my knees wrist my left wrist is the same side as my swelling in the upper side of my neck where the sternocleidomastoid muscle is! I’ve had MRIs I’ve had CAT scan I do have degenerative disc and some stenosis of the cervical spine but they say there’s nothing there I’ve had test up and down checking my brain checking my spine checking my lungs breast!

      • James

        wow, this is exactly me at the moment!! I was diagnosed with a combination of Fibro and CFS 10+ years ago and suffered all the common symptoms: chronic fatigue, headaches, muscle spasms & twitches, burning feelings mainly in feet & hands, waking up with pins & needles constantly, no appetite etc etc. However, about 3 weeks ago I noticed swelling exactly where you are saying on one side, had an ultrasound which gave me the fright of my life – supposedly 8 enlarged lymph nodes r/side, and 6 on the left – largest being 2.4cm. My ENT suddenly called me to come in and said they are now worried about the dreaded Lymphoma and they should CT me to get a better look, and then possibly biopsy day after. Had the CT immediately, and to my absolutely surprise it came back saying all lymph nodes within ‘normal’ range limits. They think there was some sort of measurement error when ultrasound done. Obviously great news, but has put me on high alert! I’ve never had visible swelling with my Fibro before, and my neck (mainly upper collarbone and first 1/4 of sternocleidomastoid muscle) has now been swollen for 3 weeks). May I ask how long yours swells for, has it happened before, and do you get any pain or stiffness of the neck, shoulder back? thanks.

        • Cynthia Appleby-Barone

          I had it last year at the same time yes, I have cervical disc issues several levels of bulging degenerative disc as you age mild stenosis I haven’t seen an orthopedist I don’t go that route I’ve been seeing an acupuncturist which does help but I find stress makes it worse for me that’s when the swelling happens.

          • Cynthia Appleby-Barone

            And yes I’ve been seeing a physical therapist also pain in my neck pain in my shoulder blade pain in my left wrist all on the same side goes down my left side of my back sometimes it’ll bother me and to my leg

          • Cynthia Appleby-Barone

            Was told soft tissue swelling

          • Cynthia Appleby-Barone

            So I didn’t mention this do you have TMJ or myofascial pain syndrome?because this will cause us to swell in that area from grinding teeth at night.

          • Cynthia Appleby-Barone


            Here’s a great person I’d like to share with you Facebook her name is Lisa she will call you and talk to you she will speak to you via Facebook
            I highly recommend her she’s out of Georgia

          • Jackie Hoffler

            Me too… I have TMJ.. Im emotionally stressed and for 2 days my feet and fingers are very red and feels very swollen but with slight physical sweetie. I spent 2 days just relaxing. I use essential oils. Frankincense oil, tea tree, in coconut carrier oil. It helps. I’ve had Fibromyalgia for 7 years and it’s getting progressively worse. I’ve changed to a organic diet. It helps. No processed foods. It’s totally frustrating because I had a life before Fibromyalgia.

  • Marlo Mackenzie

    Rubbish in my case!

    • Cons

      Mine too, I am a very relaxed person but swell due to fybromyalgia all over my body. Not just hands or feet. I am right now in much pain without stress. I do think that you feel the swell more then you see it in hands but that doesnt mean it is not there. And it does do damage to your joints! Every year I feel myself get worse so its progressive for me!


    I can’tstand more than 10 minutes and my feel start swelling and my knees hurts tremendously on the sides at the tender points. My legs are hard as a rock from inflammation. Does anyone else have this problem.? I really can’t go anywhere if I am going to be on my feet . I feel like a shell of a person. What canI do ?

    • Janette Louise Emlay

      I have this problem too. My hands and wrists swell also. Not sure if you have the same, but I have also put weight on and retain water around my waist with this.

    • nyaan

      i had this problem couple of years ago. i learned it the hard way. working out and strengthening your muscles was the only answer. even today when i stop working out due to SLE related troubles, the pressure point and muscular pain of fibro returns.
      you know your body the best. listen to it when you need rest. don’t overdo it. but dont quit on working out. it really really really helps.

  • Samantha Cook

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  • Cheryl Rash

    I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia about 2 years ago. Never had pain like it before and I have had arthritis for many years. I am so frustrated with the activities that I can do and get worn down so fast at times. I continue to work as a CNA full time but waiting on insurance to start so maybe doc can prescribe some help for me. I ace alot Thank you for allowing me to vent.