Chronic widespread pain is the main symptom of fibromyalgia. This includes :
This could include combinations of neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain, hip pain, knee pain, feet pain, and pain in just about every part of the body. People with fibromyalgia may also have:
None of this pain will show up on an x-ray or blood test. That’s one reason why getting a diagnosis of fibromyalgia from your doctor may take so long. In fact, it takes an average of more than 2 years to get an accurate diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
Even with a doctor who is very experienced with fibromyalgia, diagnosis can take time. This can be frustrating—for the patient and the doctor.
Doctors often diagnose fibromyalgia by first ruling out other conditions that have similar symptoms to fibromyalgia.
And this last point presents yet another challenge. Doctors sometimes struggle to get the information they need from their undiagnosed fibromyalgia patients. Sometimes, the problem is that patients may have a hard time clearly describing their symptoms.
People with fibromyalgia often face a lack of compassion and understanding from others around them. Sufferers may feel isolated and angry.
For some, this reluctance to talk about their symptoms can be a serious roadblock to diagnosis.
On the flip side, others—angry and tired of a long diagnostic process—begin to show their desperation in the doctor’s office. Unfortunately, this can sometimes backfire and only add more confusion to the process of getting a diagnosis. The doctor, again, may have trouble keying in on the main symptoms.
For both cases, the key to improved communication may be a prepared short, written description of symptoms. The patient can bring this list to the doctor’s office. (See Preparing for Your Next Doctor’s Visit for Fibromyalgia Pain Relief.)
Doctors who are experienced with diagnosing fibromyalgia often listen for certain terms and/or conditions they associate with fibromyalgia. These may include:
Aside from a patient’s description of symptoms, many doctors rely on the American College of Rheumatology’s guidelines to diagnose fibromyalgia. According to these guidelines, to receive a fibromyalgia diagnosis, the patient must have:
These tender points, also known as tender spots, may be found in the following places:
Fibromyalgia "tender points" from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
In 2010, the American College of Rheumatology published another set of guidelines for diagnosing fibromyalgia. These are preliminary guidelines and include a widespread pain index that assesses the number of painful body regions, and a scale that assesses the severity of symptoms such as fatigue, sleep problems, comprehension problems, and others.
Your doctor may use one or both of these assessment tools in diagnosing your condition.
The health information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a health care provider. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a health care provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patient.