How to Diagnose Fibromyalgia

Two Parts:Recognizing Fibromyalgia SymptomsDiagnosing Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia affects roughly 10 million people in the United States, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association, and is commonly associated with symptoms that include widespread muscle pain, fatigue, and problems with sleep and concentration. While your symptoms may indicate you have fibromyalgia, the best way to diagnose this chronic condition is to consult with your healthcare provider regarding medical tests.

Part 1
Recognizing Fibromyalgia Symptoms

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    Determine whether you’re at risk for developing fibromyalgia. You may be at higher risk for developing fibromyalgia if you are a woman, have a family history of fibromyalgia, are middled-aged, or suffer from a rheumatic disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.[1]
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    Determine whether you frequently experience muscle spasms, muscle tightness, or chronic muscle pain. Widespread muscle pain is often characterized as a constant dull ache that lasts for at least three months on both sides of your body, and above and below your waist.[2]
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    Determine whether you suffer from insomnia and sleep problems. Fibromyalgia is often accompanied by fatigue and decreased energy levels all day long, even if you’ve had a full night’s sleep.
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    Consider whether you experience problems with remembering things and concentrating on relatively simple tasks. Feelings of mental fogginess, also known as “fibro fog,” can indicate you have fibromyalgia.
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    Determine whether your body feels stiff after staying in one position for too long or upon waking up. Stiffness and soreness are signs of fibromyalgia.
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    Determine whether you’re especially sensitive to one or more of the following factors: noise, specific foods, odors, bright lights, cold temperatures, and medications. Having adverse reactions to the above factors can indicate you have fibromyalgia.
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    Determine whether you frequently feel tenderness in your face and jaw.
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    Determine whether you feel tingling or numbness in your face and limbs. Feelings of tingling and numbness, along with feelings of phantom swelling in limbs are common signs of fibromyalgia.
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    Determine whether you frequently suffer from migraine or tension headaches.
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    Determine whether you have problems associated with your bowels and digestion. Common abdominal symptoms associated with fibromyalgia include bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and frequent, urgent bouts of urination.[3]
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    Verify whether your fibromyalgia symptoms are being triggered by the same factors on a regular basis. Factors that commonly trigger fibromyalgia symptoms include sudden changes in the weather, too little or too much exercise or inactivity, depression, stress, and anxiety.[4]

Part 2
Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

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    Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you frequently experience one or more symptoms of fibromyalgia. The best time to contact your doctor is immediately upon verifying whether you’ve been suffering from chronic muscle pain and overwhelming fatigue that interferes with everyday life.
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    Ask your healthcare provider to rule out other conditions that share fibromyalgia symptoms. Conditions that exhibit symptoms similar to those of fibromyalgia are HIV, hypothyroidism, Lyme disease, degenerative diseases of the spine, and some cancers. Your doctor can perform a series of tests to rule out these other conditions, such as blood tests, X-rays, and biopsies.
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    Have your doctor test all four quadrants of your body for constant pain. According to rules put in place by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) in 2010, fibromyalgia can be diagnosed by determining whether you experience constant pain on the left and right sides of your body, and above and below the waist for at least three consecutive months.
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    Have your doctor test for tenderness on certain parts of your body commonly associated with fibromyalgia. This test is also part of diagnosing fibromyalgia per the ACR, and involves placing pressure on areas such as between your shoulder blades, the back of your head, the front of your neck, outer elbows, upper hips, inner knees, and more. If you experience tenderness in at least 11 of the 18 tender spots associated with fibromyalgia, you may be suffering from this condition.[5]


  • Seek another professional opinion if you feel certain you have fibromyalgia, but your healthcare provider offers another diagnosis or refuses to run tests. Seeking a second opinion can often help validate your diagnosis, and allow you to receive the treatment needed to improve your health.


  • Don’t start treating yourself for fibromyalgia until you’ve consulted with your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can run a series of tests to determine whether you truly have fibromyalgia, or whether you require treatment for another condition that exhibits similar symptoms.

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Categories: Conditions and Treatments