A lot of people have asked me “Just how is Fibromyalgia diagnosed?” So I thought I’d put together some information here so that others who are wondering the same thing will know.
Getting a fibromyalgia diagnosis can be a difficult accomplishment.
This is because symptoms tend to overlap with other diseases such as thyroid insufficiency, lupus, polymyalgia rheumatica, as well as other autoimmune illnesses. So, your doctor will most likely want to rule these illnesses out before making a firm fibromyalgia diagnosis.
The diagnosis is made based on criteria set by the American College of Rheumatology in 1990. The specific criteria are below.
It can seem lonely and like a daily struggle if you have pain and fatigue everyday. The pain and fatigue can be extreme.
Many will have had multiple visits to the doctor in search of a diagnosis, treatment, and just plain relief. So you see, diagnosing fibromyalgia is not an easy process.
Diagnostic Criteria for Fibromyalgia Diagnosis
The American College of Rheumatology has identified 18 tender points that are characteristic for fibromyalgia patients. You may have more or less but the 18 identified are the ones found most commonly.
**To be diagnosed you must have at least 11 of the 18 tender points.**
Here are the 18 fibromyalgia tender points identified by ACR:
- Occiput – The left and right sides of the back neck area where the muscles attach to the base of the skull. This can include the trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, splenius capitus, or the semispinalis capitus muscles.
- Trapezius – The left and right sides of the muscle between neck and shoulder
- Supraspinatus – The muscles at the inner, upper shoulder blade on both sides (right and left)and just above the shoulder blade.
- Lateral epicondyle – 2 centimeters below the outer bone of the elbow of the left and right arms
- Gluteal – Left and right upper outer area of buttocks
- Greater trochanter – Rear left and right hip bones
- Knee – The fat pad of the inner area near the left and right knee joints
- Low cervical – Lower, front neck area of left and right sides
- Second rib – Both sides of upper chest area
- Your pain must have been widespread and lasted for a minimum of 3 months.
- You must have had pain in at least 3 quadrants of the body.
- You must have had pain above and below the waist. This includes shoulder and buttock pain.
- You must have had pain in the axial skeleton which includes the head, vertebral column (spine), back, or neck.
If you think you may be suffering with symptoms of fibromyalgia, you can go ahead and print out the fibromyalgia symptom checklist to document your symptoms. Keeping a record of symptoms can help your next doctor visit to be more productive.
There is help. There are medications your doctor might suggest.
Studies have shown that prescription medications have not been quite as effective as alternative health treatments for FMS.
You can read more about natural fibromyalgia treatment here.
Fibromyalgia Network: Symptoms
Tierney, L.M., Jr., McPhee, S.J., & Papadakis, M.A. (2001). Current medical diagnosis & treatment.;New York: McGraw-Hill.
American College of Rheumatology: Fibromyalgia
WebMD: Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Yunus, M.B., & Aldag, J.C. (1996). Restless legs syndrome and leg cramps in fibromyalgia syndrome: a controlled study. British Medical Journal, 312, 1339.
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