Fibro Facts Series- Fibro Fact #8: Fibromyalgia Diagnosis includes Process of Elimination

Posted by on Oct 12, 2013 in Fibro Facts, Fibro Pics | 5 comments

Fibro Facts Series- Fibro Fact #8: Fibromyalgia Diagnosis includes Process of Elimination

Fibro Facts, our newest series on Inspired Living with Fibromyalgia, is a series of illustrated facts about Fibromyalgia. The goal is to help increase awareness and understanding for the millions of people living with Fibromyalgia throughout the world and to help people recently diagnosed learn a bit more about Fibromyalgia!


Fibro Fact #8: Fibromyalgia Diagnosis includes a Process of Elimination

According to the updated guidelines (May 2010) by the American College of Rheumatogloy, a patient must not have another condition or disorder that explains the pain. Unfortunately, this is where the process of elimination comes in and also where a lot of time (average is 5 years to a diagnosis) can be involved in obtaining a diagnosis.


The updates to the diagnosis criteria for Fibromyalgia were created to address limitations in the original criteria. The original criteria of widespread pain in all 4 quadrants of the body AND at least 11 out of 18 tender points still stands, the new criteria simply provides a more systematic approach to symptoms to be monitored more efficiently and to determine the severity of the syndrome.


A good physician will eliminate other possible causes of pain, sleep disorders, and other symptoms before identifying Fibromyalgia as the problem, because it is simply good medical practice. No one wants to have the actual issue missed for a quick diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.


Ultimately, patients tend to find the process frustrating and time consuming, because they will literally be tested for other sources causing the fatigue, anything that might cause chronic muscle pain, actual sleep disturbances that may be causing the symptoms, and mood disorders.


The tests can range from blood tests, urine tests, X-rays, MRI’s, and more. Ultimately, hypothyroidism, infections, polymyalgia rheumatic, rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Lyme disease and more need to be ruled out.


The most common misdiagnosis of Fibromyalgia, which most Fibromyalgia patients will be told they have at one point or another, is depression. The reason for this is that people with depression often have many overlapping conditions with Fibromyalgia including disturbed sleep patterns, depressed mood, and wide spread body pain.


Oh and in case it’s not confusing enough, a person CAN actually have Fibromyalgia and later develop depression as a result of the chronic pain impacting one’s life often very dramatically. Fibromyalgia can also overlap with rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism and other issues.


Are you saying- say what? Did you just contradict yourself there? Well, yes, yes I did. And so will many doctors because it is downright confusing. Yes, some doctors will rule out conditions that you can actually have at the same time as Fibromyalgia (although typically they have a later onset) and others won’t rule them out. However, some of the other conditions are treatable so it is worth finding out for sure, because if you can reduce the pain for one condition, sometimes it will help reduce the pain all over your body.


Is it any wonder doctors are just as confused and frustrated with Fibromyalgia as we are?

Hello Fibro Friends. My name is Emily. I have Fibromyalgia, but it doesn’t have me, at least not anymore! After coping with the chronic pain and other difficult symptoms of Fibromyalgia for more than a decade, I have learned wonderful ways to improve my quality of life and find inspiration in the world around me. My purpose in life is to increase Fibromyalgia awareness and understanding, while helping others reach an Inspired Life! I love teaching others how to not only cope with Fibromyalgia, but to actually excel at living an abundant, healthy, and inspired lifestyle.

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  1. Very informative post, thank you. Getting to a diagnosis is really frustrating. I’m not sure if you are in the UK or not but here the issue is GP’s know a little about a lot and specialist consultants know a lot about a little. Unfortunately, being passed onto someone who will be able to correctly diagnose you is the difficult part! My GP described the journey to my diagnosis as being like an upside down pyramid. At first, the pyramid is wide and there is potential for the diagnosis to be one of many things. But as you progress through tests and work your way down the pyramid, the options become less and less and you (hopefully) will be finally diagnosed. On saying that I was referred to a rheumatologist because my doctor thought I had inflammatory spine disease, not because he suspected I had fibromyalgia. The horrible part of going through this process is being told time and time again that all the tests are fine and they can’t find anything wrong with you, but you sure know there is!

    I think there is still a lot of stigma attached to fibromyalgia, and some doctors still dispute whether it exists (thankfully not mine). It took me 3 years to get to diagnosis so I think I’m a bit better than average going by your post. The issue I’m having is that now I have been diagnosed, I have been passed back into the care of my GP. All very well but like I said at the beginning, a GP is not a specialist in fibro (unless they happen to take an interest in it) and so looking at options for treatment etc. can be tricky. You really need to become an ‘expert patient’ and know everything about your illness so you can challenge and question your GP and together find what it the best option for you.

  2. Have you ever tried chiropractic care?? My daughter has fibro and was diagnosed when she was 16! We have tried everything under the sun for relief and one of our neighbors suggested a chiropractor. I researched and read some information from here ( but was curious if anyone else has tried this.

    • Yes, I have tried chiropractic care and it helps me. The first few weeks were very painful, but then I started getting relief from pain in small amounts of time, which gradually increased. When I have a chiropractic appointment, my pain levels generally decrease by about 1 to 2 points (on scale of 1 to 10) for a day or two. It isn’t a cure, but it does help with the pain.

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