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Person comparing an apple and an orange representing the similarities and differences of psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia

How Can You Tell The Difference Between Psoriatic Arthritis Pain and Fibromyalgia Pain?

To be honest, I can’t tell the difference. For 35 years, I have had psoriatic arthritis and just two years ago became diagnosed with fibromyalgia. One thing I do know, is that I have pain and I’m drained with both of them.

Which chronic condition is causing me pain?

Each condition causes discomfort and stiffness throughout my entire body. My rheumatologist seems to know the difference so I take separate medications for both. My doctor informed me that fibromyalgia symptoms are pain, muscle tenderness, and stiffness. Psoriatic arthritis can also cause pain, swelling and tenderness in certain joints. What??

Psoriatic symptoms versus fibromyalgia symptoms

There are other symptoms that both conditions have such as pain on both sides of the body at the same time, stiffness that is worse in the morning followed with chronic fatigue, anxiety, and chronic pain. While some symptoms are similar, there are ways to distinguish the differences.

Symptoms specific to fibromyalgia include:

  • Skin could be tender and sensitive to the touch
  • Pain in muscle and soft tissue
  • Brain fog which causes confusion and trouble concentrating
  • Painful menstrual cramps
  • Sensitivity to sounds and noises
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • 2/3 of patients have reported dizziness

Symptoms specific to psoriatic arthritis include:

Getting down to science

We know that psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory condition that occurs in those living with psoriasis. The effects are somewhat similar to fibromyalgia, but the conditions have different causes. Fibromyalgia is a chronic neurological condition. It can affect the nervous system and change the way the brain and nervous system process and interpret pain. It is believed that fibromyalgia does not cause inflammation.

Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose – there are no blood tests and the doctors will rule out certain things. Tests could include the identification of widespread pain and an examination of pressure points on certain parts of the body. If symptoms impact the four quadrants of the body, you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Managing psoriatic arthritis and/or fibromyalgia pain

I still can’t tell the difference, but I do know that I need lots of rest whether it’s a psoriatic or a fibromyalgia flare-up. I try and use cold packs or heat pads to ease the pain. I know this is a hard one but it is worth the try to relax the mind and remain calm. When I’m in pain I just want to cry and be alone. You need to have a strong support team around who understands what you are going through.

There are also some natural things we can do to relieve some of the pain. Get a massage or take physical therapy. Of course, this is not for everyone; both made my condition worse. It was too much for me to handle before, during and after. My doctor prescribed both for me and I had more pain after taking these treatments.

Fibromyalgia and psoriatic arthritis are similar but different

Overall, fibromyalgia and psoriatic arthritis have similar symptoms, like fatigue, pain, and stiffness. It will take a doctor to differentiate between them. I do know from experience that the pain caused by both interferes with everyday life. Most of us who suffer have a lower quality of life; especially if we are flaring. It’s frustrating for us to give up so much what we have done our whole life; like sleeping, standing or just going to events.

Another challenge: stay positive. This will help manage the conditions so much better. When you are open and honest about your conditions, we can all serve as an inspiration to others. This is what helps me get through the day and get up every morning. If I can inspire one person, this alone can bring a smile on my face.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • VickiN moderator
    11 months ago

    @mdgirl, you and @leanned are twinsies!
    Sounds challenging to tell them both apart. Sometimes on the forums someone will say that even the brush of their bedsheets against their skin is painful, and that always sounds like fibro to me. Have you found this too?

  • Diane T author
    11 months ago

    OMG!!! That is too funny. We do have the same symptoms. My doctor tried to explain the difference to me, but there are days; I just can’t figure it out. She is so right about those sheets.

    Enjoy your day,


  • Leanne Donaldson
    11 months ago

    YEAH! If there is anyone I want to be twinsies with it is you, @mdgirl 🙂 PsA and fibro living side-by-side is no fun, but at least we aren’t alone, right? Sending you super-duper-gentle hugs. Heck, maybe even “air-hugs” -Leanne

  • Diane T author
    11 months ago

    Thank you Leanne Donaldson that was so nice to say. Thanks for the super duper-gentle hugs. I get hugs from some people and just want to cry. Here is a funny doctor story. When I started having pains in different parts of my body; I decided to see a new rheumatologist. She poke me and said, yep, you have fibromyalgia. This was how I was diagnose. Of course, I got a 2nd opinion and he said, yep, she was right!! No, we are never alone. Take care, Diane

  • akennedy
    11 months ago

    How long does a flare normally last because ever since this hit me….in January…it just keeps getting worse and worse. Its like a 10 month long constant flare. Everything hurts….

  • VickiN moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi @akennedy, I’m really sorry that you’re suffering so much and for so long. Is this a fibro flare or a PsA flare, or both? Our parent company, Health Union, did a big survey of patients with psoriatic arthritis and here’s some of what they found for flares (e.g. how long they last, what body parts are affected, etc.):
    Are you on any medications/treatments for your PsA? If your symptoms are getting worse we would definitely recommend you check in with your specialists. We’re here anytime, and sending (soft!) hugs to you.

  • Diane T author
    11 months ago

    Hello akennedy,

    I have had PsA for 35 years. Are you getting worst? If so, go see a specialist. I have been on medications since 1963. They have given me a whole new life especially since I started using biologics; which has been for the last 20 years. If one doesn’t work, try, try again. Keep in touch, Diane

  • akennedy
    11 months ago

    I guess its a PSA flare….thats lasted nonstop for 11 months!!!!
    I just started cosentyx last week so we shall see if that does anything at all!!!! I don’t have much faith in the meds!

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