Fibromyalgia Tender Points

Do you have widespread chronic pain, unexplained tiredness and a poor sleep? You may suffer with a medical condition called fibromyalgia.  Widespread pain is defined as having pain in both sides of the body and pain above and below the waist.  In addition, pain must also be present in the cervical spine, anterior chest, thoracic spine or lower back.

It’s not easy to spot fibromyalgia.  This is one disease that doesn’t have many visible signs.  Most symptoms of fibromyalgia—including pain, muscle tenderness, and fatigue—are hard to see, and, because fibromyalgia symptoms are similar to those of other diseases, it can be hard to get an accurate diagnosis and find the treatment you need.  Although fibromyalgia isn’t fatal, it can have serious, lifelong effects.

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a medical condition in which the sufferer experiences widespread chronic pain and an unusually heightened and painful response to pressure.  It is a disease that can present challenges when it comes to diagnosis because most FM symptoms including tenderness of muscles, fatigue and pain are quite difficult to diagnose.  Between 10% and 30% of all doctor’s office visits are due to symptoms that resemble those of fibromyalgia, including fatigue, malaise, and widespread muscle pain.  Because no laboratory test can confirm fibromyalgia, doctors will usually first test for similar conditions.

image showing fibromyalgia trigger pointsPeople who suffer from FM often describe that they feel a constant pain. The pain may feel as though it emanates from the muscles but there are hardly any visible signs of tissue damage.  FM patients tend to be abnormally more sensitive to pain stimuli than regular people.  The feeling of discomfort is usually widespread i.e. distributed over the entire body.  Most of the people who suffer from FM also complain about creepy crawly feelings in their arms and legs at night.  Others report that they feel tingling sensations in the joints of their fingers.  There are a number of factors that can worsen the pain, among them stress and lack of sleep.

A major distinguishing characteristic of FM on the body is the so-called tender points.  When a gentle to firm pressure is applied on these tender points, the sufferer feels soreness.  These tender points are located on various body parts including elbows, knees, shoulders, hips and the back of the head. There are 18 possible tender points in all.  You may have discomfort in some or all of these locations. Doctors use these tender points to help diagnose fibromyalgia and also other factors, for example: if you have suffered with these symptoms for more than three months, if you don’t have any other problems that could cause these symptoms.
The tender points will hurt when pressed, but pain will not radiate in any other part of the body. A tender point has to be painful at palpation, not just “tender.” When pressed, these areas tend to feel like bruises in various stages of healing.
Furthermore, a tender point is different from what you may know as a trigger point. Tender points hurt, trigger points hurt and refer pain to other body parts. Trigger points cause myofascial pain syndrome, which often coexists with fibromyalgia, but can be treated with massage, physical therapy, or gentle stretching. When muscles feel hard and pressing on them causes a response elsewhere in the body, or even nausea, trigger points are responsible. Tender points are caused by an unknown mechanism, and their severity is often cyclic.
Many FM patients are confused about the difference between tender points and trigger points. Trigger points are small, contracted knots in the muscles that can be felt with your fingers and may feel like a small lump or stone under your skin. They emit their own electrical signals, which can be measured by specialised electronic equipment. They are different from tender points.
Tender points are the specific points on the body that, when touched, feel tender to the person being touched. Tender points are the areas physicians touch or feel to determine the diagnosis of FM and are not areas in which the muscles are knotted or have a lumpy feel.
Trigger Points vs Tender Points
Trigger points refer pain; tender points do not.
Trigger points cause numerous symptoms.
Trigger points can be caused by a variety of problems.
Trigger points can be treated.
Tender points are unique to fibromyalgia.

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