According to the American College of Rheumatology, there are eighteen places on the body where someone with fibromyalgia syndrome could feel pain or tenderness. If you find you hurt in at least eleven of these spots, you may have fibromyalgia symptoms. The eighteen tender spots mirror each other on the left and right sides of the body in nine places:
- The base of the skull the base of the neck where the shoulders begin
- The top of the shoulders toward the back
- On or between the shoulder blades
- At the top of the hip (backside)
- On the outside of the hip
- On the fat pad over the knee
- The breastbone
- On the outer edge of the forearm just below the elbow
Besides these diagnostic points, other common symptoms experienced by fibromyalgia sufferers include:
- widespread pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, often where they attach to the bone
- mild to severe fatigue
- muscle spasms and cramps
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- temporomandibular joint dysfunction syndrome (TMJ)
- cognitive and memory impairment, also known as fibro-fog?or brain fog?
- morning stiffness
- chronic tension or migraine headaches, often severe
- Dysmenorrhea (painful periods)
- sleep disorders such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome (RLS), sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), and bruxism (teeth grinding)
- dizziness/vertigo, often accompanied by nausea
- exacerbated allergy symptoms (affecting the nasal passages)
- muscle weakness and twitching
- impaired coordination
- sensitivity to odors, bright lights, loud noises, and medications
low tolerance for exercise and physical exertion in general (can cause muscle pain for days afterward)
If you believe you have fibromyalgia symptoms, it can be an uphill battle trying to find a doctor who believes you and who believes it to be a real medical condition. If one doctor downplays the reality of fibromyalgia, seek another opinion. A rheumatologist who specializes in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue would be a good choice.
Your doctor should check each of the eighteen spots for tenderness. She shouldn’t have to press hard; even light pressure on these areas can cause pain. If, at the time of the exam, you don’t experience pain in some of the areas that you have before, be sure to tell her. Fibromyalgia can seem to have a mind of its own, as some symptoms will come and go.
It would be a good idea to print this article and highlight each of the symptoms you experience, and write down any others you can think of. Being informed, prepared, and knowing your fibromyalgia symptoms will put you on the track to a correct diagnosis.