Pain: The Most Common Symptom
Everyone who has fibromyalgia suffers pain of some sort. Although widespread pain is hardly exclusive to fibromyalgia, it is the cornerstone for diagnosing people with FMS. Some people might feel it in their hips. Others might experience it in their shoulders. Still others might simply hurt all over.
The type of pain varies, too. It might be deep muscular aches or knife-like stabs of sharp pain. It could be a dull, throbbing sensation or a burning feeling. In any case, the pain of fibromyalgia is chronic, which means that while it may improve or even go away completely, it always comes back.
Often, the pain is worse when you first wake up. You may also feel stiff after prolonged periods of sitting. From one day to the next, the pain may travel from one part of your body to another. Stress, weather, and anxiety can make the aches worse on some days than others. Before you can be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the pain must have been present for at least three months.
More than half of all Americans suffer from chronic and recurrent pain, according to a 2005 poll of 1,204 adults by ABC News, USA Today, and the Stanford University Medical Center. Nineteen percent said their pain was chronic, and 34 percent said it was recurrent. The most painful site? Twenty-five percent of the respondents reported having back pain.
Where It Hurts
Any part of your body is susceptible to pain when you have fibromyalgia. Pain is considered widespread if it occurs in all four quadrants of the body, meaning you hurt on both the left and right sides of your body and that the aches are both above and below the waist.
Often the pain shifts. It might be in your shoulders one day, the hips the next. On the third day, you might have a pounding headache. Some people say fibro pain resembles the aches you commonly experience with the flu.
The Tender Points
The way doctors diagnose fibromyalgia is by checking for tenderness at 18 specific sites on your body. A doctor looking for tender points will do palpations, a technique that involves pressing down on a suspected site until his nail whitens. Before you can be diagnosed with FMS, at least 11 of these spots must be painful.