With first hand experience I can say that there is actually no clear diagnostic pathway for Fibromyalgia and different medical professionals diagnose it in different ways. What tends to happen in the UK is that patients present themselves to their General Practitioners because they are suffering from a collection of symptoms. A GP will often look at your medical history to see if there are any pointers towards other conditions, establish if you are suffering from symptoms of stress and depression, ask further questions and perform a medical examination. They will then try to establish if you have an underlying infection through a urine test and then perform various blood tests. It is around this point that most GP’s would make a referral to a Rheumatologist or Neurologist although some GP’s will only do this if there are complicating factors or difficulty with the diagnoses.

At this point in my experience Fibromyalgia comes as a diagnoses of exclusion. They will be keen to rule out infection and will look at your blood test results to see if there are any indications of an autoimmune disease. After this they will look at forms of Arthritis, by examining the joints for damage, swelling, range of motion and hyper mobility, as well as looking at blood results including the erythrocyte sedimentation rate and the rheumatoid factor which is normally raised in most arthritic conditions. They may wish to perform X-rays of various joints and spine, again checking for abnormalities, or signs of things like arthritis. If these come back clear then a diagnoses of Fibromyalgia is often given.

Some medical professionals also use the tender point test to make a diagnosis. This was adopted from the American College of Rheumatology in 1990 as a diagnostic criteria for Fibromyalgia. They found that there were nine paired tender points on the body, specifically: The rear of the neck, above the shoulder blades on the back, the lumbar region of the back, the outside of the hips, above the clavicle at the front, below the clavicle at the front, opposite the elbows on the arm and on the inside of the knees. However I have also found that some research has suggested that these tender points only represent people with a certain type of pain syndrome and not all with Fibromyalgia.

It is important to say that going through this process can take a long time and be very frustrating as a patient. You normally present yourself to a GP because the symptoms you are experiencing are having an effect on your lifestyle. Then when various tests are conducted, they come back as clear or normal, leaving you with very few answers. It is because there is no clear test for Fibromyalgia that patients and some medical professionals, call it a bit of a non diagnoses. There you are, often in pain, being told that you have this condition because they can’t actually tell you what is wrong. Fibromyalgia is also used by people who are work-shy or lazy, as an excuse to get out of work, or even people drug seeking. As a genuine sufferer of Fibromyalgia the last thing you need is to be in any way associated with any of these groups of people, especially when there is no definitive test to set you apart from them.

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