How can a doctor diagnose Fibromyalgia

Criteria to diagnose Fibromyalgia
There is a lot of confusion around the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. I personally have experienced this when I was seeking help for chronic stiffness and pain.
To keep things simple Fibromyalgia or Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is diagnosed by a doctor, nurse or other medical specialist when you have 11 or more tender points in SPECIFIC places on your body. The following is a diagram of these tender point spots. There are 18 in all and you must have soreness, on touch, in 11 or more to have a diagnosis.

Fibromyalgia tender points

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed according to criteria published by the American College of Rheumatology: widespread musculoskeletal pain and tenderness measured by the ‘tender point count’ on physical examination.

There are many reasons why you may find it difficult to get a correct diagnosis.
Here are some I have encountered:
  • FMS can exist  at the same time as other medical conditions and these can also be pain conditions e.g. have Polymyositis which is an autoimmune condition which causes weakness and pain in proximal muscles but I also have FMS as I have tender point pain in 11 places.
  • There is no specific blood test for FMS.
  • Many medical specialists believe that fibromyalgia is all in the head and this can range from a variety of opinions from it doesn't exist to, it is due to depression, to it is due to changes in neurochemicals in the brain.
  • One specialist told me that FMS is a diagnosis given to people in pain when they have not yet got a complete diagnosis.
  • FMS causes so many symptoms, not just pain, and the patient may not present with the pain as the other symptoms may be their immediate concern.
Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia


  1. I was tested for these trigger points after 6 years of being told I had fms I failed test and was told I didn't have fms, can you imagine what this did, I have struggled on by myself and now have learned to live with it

    1. Sorry to hear you feel you are struggling on by yourself but I think many people with a fibromyalgia diagnosis or other chronic illnesses feel the same. We have to find what works for us. I hope you can find some help on my blog but also have you tried a Pain Clinic? Many hospitals have one of these and they do not require a diagnosis. Good Luck.

  2. Jodie5:21 PM

    I'm not sure why everyone makes it seem so complex. This makes it very clear for anyone to diagnose fibromylagia - thanks

    1. Yes Jodie, I agree if Drs. go by the criteria published by the American College of Rheumatology it does seem easy to diagnose Fibromyalgia.

  3. Here in the UK they do not put as much emphasis on the pressure points, although I have pain in many of these places the doctors have never done this test. It is more diagnosed by ruling out other conditions that can be identified by blood tests etc and then looking at the range of symptoms you have. It seems interesting that different countries approach it in different ways...

  4. I agree Susan, I had more of a process of elimination like you with loads of tests and then because of widespread pain and sleep difficulties I was sent to rheumatologist and he diagnosed me. There doesn't seem to be a just way and every country seems different and every doctor too, depending on their preconceived ideas!!


Thanks for your input