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The diagnosis of fibromyalgia syndrome

New guidelines aim to support clinicians in the diagnosis of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). 

Fibromyalgia syndrome is common, yet its diagnosis can be challenging. Symptoms vary, are commonly multiple and can fluctuate. It can often be difficult for patients to articulate an array of symptoms, and for both patients and healthcare professionals to fully make sense of the complexities of the condition. Because of this, patients may be diagnosed inaccurately with alternative conditions, only receive an FMS diagnosis after years of delay, or sometimes be inaccurately diagnosed with FMS.

These guidelines aim to support clinicians in the diagnosis of FMS. They are particularly for patient-facing clinicians who are specialists in areas other than complex pain conditions. They neither aim to dictate the setting in which FMS should be diagnosed, nor who should make the diagnosis. Any diagnostician (eg a GP or physiotherapist) is well-placed to consider a diagnosis of FMS.

Produced by a multidisciplinary guideline development group which included representatives from general practice, surgery, nursing, occupational health, rheumatology, orthopaedics, rehabilitation and physiotherapy as well as patients diagnosed with FMS, the guidelines aim to provide succinct, relevant information for clinicians and patients about what FMS is, and what it is not.

They are not intended to summarise the management of FMS or treatment pathways as other evidence-based guidelines are available to cover these areas. However, notably where conducted well, a consultation that leads to a diagnosis can have therapeutic and reassuring effects which should not be underestimated.

It is hoped that the guidelines will lead to better understanding and awareness of FMS, enabling timely diagnosis and management.

Alongside the full guidelines, a diagnostic worksheet and two information sheets providing summary information for clinicians and patients are available to download.