What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that affects an estimated 2% of the U.S. population. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but men also develop the disorder.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

 

The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) published research criteria for classifying fibromyalgia in 1990. These criteria included the presence of widespread pain and tenderness in at least 11 of 18 specific tender point sites on physical examination.

Pain was considered chronic and widespread when it occurred on both sides of the body, above and below the waist, and along the axial skeleton for at least three months.

This definition was primarily intended for use in research settings to more uniformly evaluate patient-reported pain. In clinical practice, physicians may assess tenderness in other ways, or may even be comfortable diagnosing fibromyalgia without conducting a complete tender point examination.

Fibromyalgia Can Be More than Just Pain

One consistent thing about fibromyalgia is its inconsistency. No two people experience fibromyalgia in the exact same way. The defining symptoms of fibromyalgia are chronic, widespread pain and tenderness, but people living with the disorder also may experience other symptoms, including fatigue, problems with memory, concentration or disorganized thinking, emotional changes, and sleep problems.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

The exact causes of fibromyalgia remain unknown. Some medical experts believe it is due to some combination of changes in brain and spinal cord chemistry, genetics, and stress.

How Do I Know if I Have Fibromyalgia?

Only a healthcare provider can diagnose fibromyalgia. The disorder cannot be detected with blood tests or x-rays. However, your healthcare provider may conduct these tests to rule out other conditions with some similar symptoms.

Your healthcare provider may ask about your medical history (including family medical history) and a list of symptoms you have experienced, in addition to conducting a physical examination.

Who Treats Patients with Fibromyalgia?

Healthcare professionals who may provide information about and treatments for fibromyalgia may include the following:

  • Primary care or family physician
  • Rheumatologist
  • Pain management specialist
  • Physical therapist
  • Psychiatrist or other counselor (psychologist or social worker)

Seeing a healthcare provider for a condition that has no apparent cause can be frustrating. Having tests that do not provide answers can be tiring. Remember that fibromyalgia is real, even if it can’t be diagnosed by an x-ray or blood test.

National Fibromyalgia Association

National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association (NFMCPA)

National Fibromyalgia Research Association

American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association (AFSA)

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