Diagnosis by Symptoms

Using Symptoms and Tender Points to Diagnose Fibromyalgia

What happens when you do not have 11 of the specified 18 tender points? If your doctor has ruled out other conditions that might be causing your pain, does that mean your symptoms are not caused by fibromyalgia? Not necessarily.

Even if you don’t quite meet the tender point diagnosis for fibromyalgia, you may still have this condition. A consensus of 35 fibromyalgia experts published a report in 1996 saying that a person does not need to have the required 11 tender points to be diagnosed and treated for fibromyalgia.* This criteria is only required for people being studied for research purposes. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia may still be given in the usual clinical setting (e.g., in private practice) if you have widespread pain along with many of the commonly associated symptoms:

  • fatigue that is not relieved by rest
  • irritable bowel (e.g., diarrhea, constipation, etc.)
  • sleep disorder (or sleep that is unrefreshing)
  • chronic headaches (tension-type or migraines)
  • jaw pain (including TMJ dysfunction)
  • cognitive or memory impairment
  • post-exertional malaise and muscle pain
  • morning stiffness (waking up stiff and achy)
  • numbness and tingling sensations
  • skin and chemical sensitivities

The point is, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be made by doctors in private practice using a combination of tender points and symptoms.

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* Wolfe F, et al. J Rheumatology 23(3):534-9, 1996.


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