How to Diagnose Fibromyalgia

“Fibromyalgia affects between 2 and 4% of people, women more often than men. It is not an autoimmune or inflammation-based illness, however, research suggests that the nervous system is involved. Pain Specialists diagnose fibromyalgia based on all the patient’s relevant symptoms (what they feel), no longer solely on the number of tender places during an examination” [1]

Getting an Accurate Fibromyalgia Diagnosis

As will many illnesses and diseases, a diagnosis needs to be undertaken by a Pain Specialist who has had extensive training and experience in the field. Unfortunately, a GP (general practitioner), does not usually have the background to be able to give a precise diagnosis, as diagnosing this condition can be difficult, due to the fact that there is no specific test to diagnose it.

In some instances, fibromyalgia is mistaken for lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike fibromyalgia, these rheumatic diseases generate inflammation in the joints and tissues.

Yet, there is a deviation in the symptoms, blood tests & physical findings, all of which help the Pain Consultant detect the patient’s health issues.

If someone has been suffering with Fibromyalgia symptoms for at least three months, then the best course of action is to book up a consultation right away. At the time of the first appointment, the Pain Consultant will review the patient’s medical history, and discuss their pain in detail, including how long they have had it for, and the way it is negatively affecting their life.

They will also conduct an examination to determine whether they are experiencing tenderness to pressure, or have tender points at a certain number of specific spots. They will ask about the symptoms and pain that they have experienced over the last 7 days, and base their diagnosis on the total of number of painful areas (out of a set number of body regions), as well as the degree of severity of the following symptoms:

• Fatigue
• Waking feeling un-refreshed
• Cognitive issues (thoughts and memory)
• Along with other general physical symptoms [1]

The Pain Doctor will also ascertain whether or not there are any visible signs of other medical conditions which could be generating similar symptoms to fibromyalgia. These include:

• Inflamed, painful joints, which could point to rheumatoid arthritis rather than fibromyalgia
• ME (chronic fatigue syndrome), which causes continual tiredness
• MS (multiple sclerosis) which affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), which are involved in movement and balance
• Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
• Polymyalgia rheumatica

The Pain Consultant may then arrange for the patient to have blood and urine tests, an x-ray, and a scan. It is however, important to note that, even if another condition is found, the patient may still have fibromyalgia.


[1]. American College of Rheumatology (2022). “Fibromyalgia.”