Ruling out other conditions
If your GP thinks you may have fibromyalgia, they'll first have to rule out all other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.
These conditions may include:
- chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as ME) – a condition that causes long-term tiredness
- rheumatoid arthritis – a condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints
- multiple sclerosis (MS) – a condition of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) that affects movement and balance
If you're found to have another condition, you could still have fibromyalgia as well.
Criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia
For fibromyalgia to be diagnosed, certain criteria usually have to be met.
The most widely used criteria for diagnosis are:
- you either have severe pain in 3 to 6 different areas of your body, or you have milder pain in 7 or more different areas
- your symptoms have stayed at a similar level for at least 3 months
- no other reason for your symptoms has been found
The extent of the pain used to be assessed by applying gentle pressure to certain "tender points", where any pain is likely to be at its worst. But this is less common nowadays.
Diagnosing other conditions
It's also possible to have other conditions alongside your fibromyalgia, such as:
If your symptoms suggest that you have another condition as well as fibromyalgia, you may need further tests to diagnose these.
Identifying all possible conditions will help guide your treatment.