Do doctors know how to diagnose fibromyalgia properly? Do they know the fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria?

As we know, fibromyalgia is a difficult condition to diagnose. With no specific test to help diagnose fibromyalgia it can become complicated and time consuming for the doctor. There is specific criteria that must be met to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia and also ruling out many other conditions. However are doctors familiar with the diagnosis criteria?! Over the years, the diagnosis criteria has changed and altered.


An article I read explained that a doctor and his colleagues distributed a 37 item questionnaire which tested physician’s knowledge on the 1990 fibromyalgia criteria and the 2010 diagnostic criteria. I was rather shocked at the findings.

Overall, 12% of the respondents used only the 1990 criteria in their practice, 27% used the 2010 criteria, 12% used both, and 49% used no criteria. Therefore, only 51% of respondents adhered to these sets of criteria in diagnosing fibromyalgia.


The results did show that specialists were more familiar with the diagnostic criteria, but did not have in depth knowledge. Even doctors who had the “most specialist training” only showed having 55.4% knowledge on the 1990 fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria and 72.4% on the 2010 diagnostic criteria. I believe the latest fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria was updated in 2016. It makes me wonder if doctors even know of the update as this article only lists the 1990/2010 diagnostic criteria.

For more information visit here.


In addition (my personal thoughts)….

Many doctors are reluctant to begin testing early for fibromyalgia ( ruling out other conditions). In order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, symptoms must be present at a similar level for at least three consecutive months. Do doctors wait to see if symptoms last that long before beginning to rule out other conditions? My doctor began ruling out other conditions as soon as he suspected fibromyalgia. The waiting game is one of the hardest parts of fibromyalgia. We wait to see doctors or specialists, we wait for specific tests to be completed – then we wait some more for the results and repeat this process for months to come ( in some cases years).


I won’t mention all the tests doctors may decide to run, but it is very time consuming. My doctor ruled out many other conditions then had a rheumatologist verify his fibromyalgia diagnosis. The rheumatologist agreed 100% on the diagnosis stating I meet all the diagnosis criteria listed.


Another difficult aspect about a doctor evaluating fibromyalgia is that it is also diagnosed by self reporting. Doctors are often left trying to decipher if the patient is telling the truth to the many questions asked during the assessment. I understand their side of it as well – some people do try to play the system and fake fibromyalgia as there is not a test to diagnose. Sadly, those of us who are being honest and truthful when self reporting our symptoms often feel the backlash of not being believed.


Doctors and other healthcare providers should be informed about diagnostic changes to the fibromyalgia criteria. If they are informed and educated about fibromyalgia more – it would save a lot of frustration all around. The first question I ask doctors is what they know about fibromyalgia and if they believe in the diagnosis. If they can’t answer these questions I know the frustration will soon set in on both sides.


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