Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be tricky, especially since this condition is still not very well understood in the medical community. Additionally, pain can affect people differently. Some people will have a higher pain tolerance than others, which can make it difficult for a doctor to diagnose fibromyalgia if the patient has complaints of only mild chronic pain.
Because of this, a physician will typically check for certain tender points on the body and ask patients what their pain level is at these different points. Fibromyalgia and joint pain are very common, and it’s one of the most prominent symptoms associated with this condition.
Patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia tend to have pain in many of the same areas of the body. Some describe the pain as localized, while others describe it as radiating.
The Truth About Fibromyalgia
Over twelve million Americans live with fibromyalgia. Researchers still aren’t sure what causes this condition although physical trauma, infection, and stress can trigger symptoms. Nine out of ten people with this condition are women, which suggests that female hormones are a major factor.
Searching for the Underlying Cause
Research indicates that changes occur in the pain pathways all over the body in people with fibromyalgia. Studies found that fifty percent of people with this condition have damaged nerve fibers in their skin. This discovery offers much-needed evidence regarding the mechanism behind the underlying cause of fibromyalgia. But the underlying cause has still not been found. As scientists continue to study this mysterious condition, they’re slowly finding more effective treatments that can help patients to manage their ongoing joint pain.
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Unfortunately, diagnosing fibromyalgia isn’t always easy because the symptoms often resemble those associated with other conditions. On average, it can take two to three years to be properly diagnosed. Most doctors will initially misdiagnose a patient with an autoimmune disease.
In order to diagnose fibromyalgia, a doctor will usually rely on certain guidelines such as the total number of tender points found on the body that cause pain when pressed.
Most Common Pain Locations
Studies suggest that people diagnosed with fibromyalgia have pain in at least eleven tender points in the body. The doctor will apply a certain amount of pressure to a total of eighteen different points in the body to determine whether or not a patient may be struggling with fibromyalgia. For a formal diagnosis, a patient must have the minimum of eleven tender points.
Below are some of the most common painful areas that have been reported by people diagnosed with this condition.
People with this condition often have tender spots on the back of the neck, where the neck and the base of the skull meet. However, neck pain can also be due to rheumatoid arthritis, injury, or activities that can cause neck strain.
Patients with fibromyalgia also often experience a tenderness in their forearms, close to the crease of the elbow. The pain is usually toward the outer side of the arm, below the crease. Other conditions that can contribute to elbow pain include repetitive strain injuries and tendinitis.
One of the most common body parts associated with fibromyalgia is the lower back. Generally, one in four patients with this condition have complaints of severe lower back pain.
Aside from lower back pain, people with this condition will also often have tender points along the shoulder blades.
Pain in the hips is another common spot most patients with fibromyalgia struggle with. This type of joint pain can make it incredibly difficult to carry out everyday tasks around the home and workplace and can significantly affect a person’s mobility, especially if both hips are affected. Runners often report hip joint pain while running, which can be an early sign of this condition in active people.
Other Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The pain will often become worse with anxiety, stress, or physical activities. Patients with fibromyalgia may also have a heightened sensitivity to things around them such as bright lights, cold, heat, and noise. Even holding hands can be painful in severe cases.
The core symptom of fibromyalgia is pain, but since people feel it in different ways, diagnosing this condition can be difficult, especially since it tends to share symptoms with degenerative joint conditions.
Other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Sleep disruption
- Mental fog
- Short-term memory loss