Fibromyalgia syndromes are characterized by general or localized pain and stiffness in muscles, tendons or ligaments. There is no established cause for fibromyalgia although many people believe that it's origins are auto-immune related. Things like lack of sleep, stress, infection, severe injury and various other conditions have been associated with the onset or worsening of Fibromyalgia symptoms.
The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is one of exclusion. This means ruling out the following conditions with a complete history, physical examination, blood work, x-rays, EMG and other diagnostic studies:
- Thyroid problems including hypothyroid dysfunctions such as primary and secondary hypothyroidism, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, iodine deficiency (goiter), and genetic thyroid enzyme defects
- Diseases of bones, joints, muscles and nerves
- Hormone imbalances
- Polymyalgia rheumatica
Checking Tender Spots
If none of the above are the cause of your symptoms, there are 18 'tender points' to be checked. These potentially painful areas should not have signs of inflammation such as increased heat, redness or swelling. If you experience significant pain in at least 11 of these 18 points when they are pressed with enough force to change the color of your skin (a little less than 9 pounds), it is considered a positive indication of fibromyalgia. To further confirm the diagnosis, it is even more significant if you have been experiencing your symptoms in all four quadrants of your body for at least three months. The four quadrants of your body are your left and right sides as well as above and below your waist.
Even with these specific points and areas to check, some people with fibromyalgia can have pain and symptoms throughout their body or just on one side or only in their upper or lower body. And, pain and symptoms can be better or worse on any given day. Considering these variations, the history of symptoms and having at least 11 of the 18 points being positive to pressure are currently the best diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Some of the most common symptoms associated with fibromyalgia include anxiety, chemical sensitivities, chronic headaches, chronic muscle pain, depression, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, intestinal problems, irritability, irritable bowel syndrome, jaw pain, leg cramps, light headedness, memory problems, morning stiffness, muscle spasms, numbness and tingling in the arms and/or legs, painful menstruation, problems thinking clearly, severe fatigue, skin sensitivities and sleep problems.