It is surpassed only by osteoarthritis. Due to its similarities to arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, it is quite often misunderstood and misdiagnosed.
The characteristics of fibromyalgia include widespread muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and several other symptoms.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can lead to depression/anxiety and ultimately social isolation- it’s no fun to be out with friends and be in pain too!
The word “fibromyalgia” is derived from the Latin word for fibrous tissue, which is fibro, along with the Greek words for muscle (myo) and pain (algia).
What are Pressure Points/Tender Points?
Fibromyalgia Pressure Points are particular points on the body of an individual with fibromyalgia (18 points at 9 locations) that are extremely sensitive to the touch upon being examined by a doctor.
These pressure points are located at the following nine points of bilateral muscles:
- Front neck area- at the beginning of the aperture between the diagonal processes of C5 to C7
- Front chest area- at the second cartilaginous joints between the sternal end of the ribs and the end of the costal cartilages.
- Back of the neck- at the muscle insertions in the suboccipital area.
- Back shoulder area-at the middle of the upper border.
- Shoulder blade area- just above the central border of the scapular spine.
- Elbow area- two centimeters proximal to the lateral epicondyle.
- Rear end- the upper outer quadrant of the behind.
- Rear hip- at the end of the greater trochanteric prominence.
- Knee area- at the central fat pad nearest to the joint line.
These pressure points are also referred to as trigger points or tender points. However, the AAFP says that “fibromyalgia trigger points” is not a correct term, since referred pain actually distinguishes trigger points from tender points.
They cause points of pain or localized tender areas around the joints, but don’t involve the joints themselves. When pressed, even gently, with a finger, these pressure points/tender points hurt.
Typically, they’re not areas of deep pain, but are superficial areas that seem to be just under the surface of the skin.
Are Pressure Points/Tender Points Large?
Actually, they’re not. The size of the most tender point is typically very small- around the size of a penny. These areas tend to be a lot more sensitive than other areas that are nearby.
In fact, pressing on one of these pressure points/tender points with a finger (or other object) will inflict pain on the individual that will make them pull back or flinch.
As you can see from the above list, these tender points are scattered out over the body- in 9 specific locations.
What Causes These Pressure Points/Tender Points?
This is actually another of the unknowns when it comes to fibromyalgia. Though it would make sense to assume that these areas are inflamed, due to the pain- researchers have been unable to point out particular inflammation signs when examining these tissue areas in individuals with fibromyalgia.
However, it has been noted that these pressure points/tender points are definitely not random.
They occur in specific, predictable places on the body. So, individuals with fibromyalgia will all experience basically the same or at least similar symptoms with their pressure points/tender points.
Diagnosis from Pressure Points/Tender Points?
Your doctor can do testing on these painful pressure points/tender points during a routine physical examination.
However, even when these tender points are present, you’re still going to need to be able to describe the specific pain you’re feeling in those particular areas.
You’re also going to need to be able to describe the other fibromyalgia symptoms that you’re experiencing to your physician.
These symptoms include: fatigue, problems with falling or staying asleep, irritable bowel syndrome, deep pain in your muscles, depression, and others.
When your physician is testing your pressure points/tender points, he/she will also be checking a few “control” points- or points that are not tender- on your body to ensure that you’re not having the same flinch or pull back response on those spots.
In order to get a fibromyalgia diagnosis, the symptoms must be present for three full months.
Can Medications Control or Ease the Pain of Pressure Points/Tender Points?
Managing the pain of the pressure points/tender points actually incorporates a multifaceted program employing both traditional and alternative therapies.
While it’s not exactly clear why, the pain and fatigue related to fibromyalgia actually respond quite well to low doses of antidepressants.
However, treatment for these pressure points/tender points and the other symptoms of fibromyalgia actually involves a combination of daily management of stress, hydrotherapy with both heat and ice, medications, and plenty of rest.
Additionally, other remedies for fibromyalgia symptoms could be incorporated as necessary.
Are There DIY Treatments Available to Manage Pressure Point/Tender Point Pain?
Yes, there are some alternative, do-it-yourself treatments that are very important in managing your fibromyalgia symptoms and the pain that comes with the pressure points/tender points.
For example, therapeutic massage can actually help to manipulate the soft tissues and muscles to help ease the muscle tension, stress, pain, and muscle spasms.