Most doctors diagnose fibromyalgia on the basis of widespread pain lasting three months or more that is not attributable to any other medical condition. However, in-depth criteria for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia have been developed by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) (Wolfe 2010), but many physicians don’t strictly adhere to these criteria.
Doctors have trouble diagnosing fibromyalgia for a variety of reasons. First, fibromyalgia patients typically do not exhibit any obvious abnormalities upon physical examination, laboratory analysis, and/or radiologic imagining. Also, fibromyalgia patients are often affected by at least one of the following disorders: chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), interstitial cystitis (IC), and temporomandibular disorder (TMD) (Aaron 2000).
Therefore, distinguishing the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia from the aforementioned conditions can be fairly confusing, even for experienced physicians (Henningsen 2007). For these reasons, fibromyalgia is primarily a diagnosis of exclusion, which means that other diseases and disorders must first be ruled out.