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Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be difficult because many of the symptoms can be the onset of something else.  That’s why it’s important to see a physician to ensure you get the correct diagnosis.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder characterized by widespread muscle pain throughout the body accompanied by the following one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Sensitivity to pain
  • Constipation
  • Forgetfulness/lack of concentration

It is important to note that fibromyalgia is NOT an autoimmune disease or a form of arthritis. It is also impossible to diagnose by a lab test or X-ray.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Many symptoms of fibromyalgia overlap with early rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, which is why it can be hard to diagnose.

  • Pain
  • Sleep disorders (more common in women)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Chronic headaches
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Hypersensitivity


Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia affects roughly two to four percent of people, mostly women.

While there is no test to detect this fibromyalgia, you may need lab tests or x-rays to rule out other health problems.

Pain is around the joints, not the joint themselves, and can be found in:

  • Lower neck in front
  • Edge of upper breast
  • Below side bone at elbow
  • Just above knee on inside
  • Base of the skull
  • Neck and shoulder
  • Upper inner shoulder
  • Upper outer buttock
  • Hip bone

Fibromyalgia Treatment Options

There is no cure for fibromyalgia. However, symptoms can be treated with medication as well as non-drug-based treatments.

Non-drug treatments include:

  • Conditioning exercises (walking, yoga, water aerobics, etc.)
  • Healthy Diet
  • Massage therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Vitamins, like magnesium

Medications include:

  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)*
  • Milnacipran (Savella)*
  • Amitriptyline (Elavil)*
  • Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)*
  • Pregabalin (Lyrica) – may cause dizziness, sleepiness, swelling & weight gain

*may alter some of the brain’s chemicals

Speak to your rheumatologist about which treatment option is best for you.

The Role of the Rheumatologist

Fibromyalgia can cause chronic pain and fatigue similar to arthritis. When this happens, your primary care physician may advise you to see a rheumatologist to rule out other conditions. As a result, often a rheumatologist diagnoses fibromyalgia.

WakeMed Physician Practices – Rheumatology will see you to discuss your symptoms and to ensure there are no other causes for your symptoms. If fibromyalgia is diagnosed, the rheumatologist can discuss the current understanding of the syndrome, symptoms and current treatment recommendations.

In the absence of another rheumatologic disease, the rheumatologist will recommend that you continue to follow up with your primary care doctor for further symptom management and medication management if needed.


Fibromyalgia Resources

For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association (NfmCPA) Raleigh Support Group

American College of Rheumatology

University of Michigan Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center

About Mary Anne Dooley, MD

Dr. Mary Anne Dooley is a board certified rheumatologist at WakeMed Physician Practices – Rheumatology in North Raleigh. Dr. Dooley has clinical interests in systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, seronegative arthritis, such as psoriatic arthritis, gout and other arthritis in patients with kidney problems.

Request an appointment today by calling: 919-235-6454.