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Fibromyalgia tender points: What they are, where they are and what to do when they hurt

Fibromyalgia Tender Points
3 minutes, 26 seconds

Fibromyalgia, also known as fibrositis, is a chronic musculoskeletal disorder that affects more than 4 million people in the U.S. during any given year. This disorder is hard to identify and diagnose because there are no visible symptoms. For those who have it, it can be described as a condition that causes chronic pain in certain areas of the body, called “tender points.” 

Some related symptoms that tend to accompany this condition include muscle pain, fatigue, memory loss and sudden changes in mood. It’s incurable but can be managed with treatments like physical therapy, medication and stress management.

What are fibromyalgia tender points?

Much of the pain that fibromyalgia patients feel occurs at specific points in the body. We’ll get to where those are in a second, but first let’s talk about what these tender points actually are. 

The fact is that fibromyalgia typically causes its sufferers to become more sensitive to pain. The pain may flare up for a few hours or even days and then subside, and it also tends to move around to different points on the body (there are those tender points again). 

Let’s talk through an example of how pain affects fibromyalgia patients more keenly. For someone without this condition, having someone bump lightly against them in the hall typically won’t cause much pain.

That same incident can potentially cause fibromyalgia patients more pain. Often, the pain appears at certain points on the body (the tender points we’ve mentioned). However, at these tender points, something as light as the poke of a finger can trigger enough pain to make a fibromyalgia patient wince or flinch. 

To reiterate, fibromyalgia tender points are specific areas of the body where patients with this condition tend to feel more pain than people without this condition.

Where are fibromyalgia tender points?

Fibromyalgia tender points tend to come in sets of two. The areas where the pain appears are most often near joints, but they aren’t right in the joints themselves. In total there are 18 points, but these are split into pairs. Here are the areas where these tender points are typically located:

  • At the base of the skull.
  • On the front side of the lower neck.
  • On the back side of the neck.
  • Around the shoulder blades.
  • On the upper chest.
  • Around the elbows.
  • On the hip bones.
  • On the inner leg below the knee. 
  • At the upper and outer edge of the buttocks.

What should you do if you think you have fibromyalgia?

If you think you may have fibromyalgia, your first step should be to talk to your primary care doctor. They can run lab tests to confirm fibromyalgia and rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. 

Once you’ve talked to your doctor, you should also consider meeting with a physical therapist. Most people don’t know that fibromyalgia tender points can be treated with physical therapy. You also may not know that in many states patients have direct access to physical therapy. If you live in a direct access state, that means you can go see a physical therapist without a referral from your doctor. However, you can also get a referral from your doctor during one of your diagnostic appointments.

Physical therapists can help fibromyalgia patients stretch in the most effective, pain-reducing ways. In addition, these specialists can help you improve your posture, which can help reduce physical stress on tender points. They can even use techniques like soft tissue mobilization to reduce tension around your tender points.

Physical therapists can also keep your doctor informed about your PT plan and the state of your fibromyalgia. This cooperation allows your physical therapist and doctor to work together to reduce the impact fibromyalgia has on you and your life.

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for your fibromyalgia

At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. We’re ready to help you find physical therapy that can help ease the pain of your fibromyalgia tender points. 

Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address fibromyalgia in ways that make day-to-day life easier for you. 

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. 

Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your injury or condition

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