What are Tender Points?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 14 January 2020
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People with fibromyalgia or other painful disorders may experience tender points. Tender points are areas of the body that experience different types of pain when pressure is applied to them. Physicians define tender points as spots on the body where pain is suffered after the application of nine pounds of pressure.

Also known as rheumatic syndrome, fibromyalgia is a soft tissue disease that consists of chronic pain throughout the body. This pain often manifests in a common set of 18 tender points. While some people may experience tender areas of flesh after suffering an accident, flu, or other ailment, fibromyalgia victims have specific tender points known to affect certain body areas. According to rheumatology experts, most people with fibromyalgia experience pain or sensitivity in at least 11 of these 18 diagnostic points.

These 18 localized points occur in nine bilateral body areas. These include the knee, shoulder blade, front chest, back shoulder, front neck, elbow, rear end, back of the neck, and rear hip regions. Each pain point is centralized around a joint. The joints themselves, however, are not sources of pain. Each small point is the size of a coin.


Pain points are not limited to the 18 areas used in diagnostic testing. Over 75 total pain points have been identified in cases of fibromyalgia. In addition to these sensitive areas, patients with rheumatic disorders typically experience deep muscle excruciation throughout the entire body. They also often battle depression and fatigue from living with the long-term pain.

Other fibromyalgia symptoms include insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, stiffness, weight gain, chronic headaches, and vision issues. Some patients may experience nausea or vomiting. Pelvic or urinary tract problems can also be a sign of the disease. People who suspect that they may have fibromyalgia should consult with their family physician.

A tender point differs from a trigger point. While a trigger point may or may not experience pain when touched, it may deliver pain to another area of the body. Tender points, instead, are specifically painful when touched directly.

The cause of tender points has yet to be discovered. Inflammation has been ruled out as a cause. Scientists do believe that the points themselves are not random, as they are commonly experienced in the same areas by fibromyalgia patients across the world.

Several options are available for treating fibromyalgia pain. Patients are advised to exercise and get plenty of rest, as well as consume healthy foods and minimize stress. Prescription medications, including antidepressants, may be prescribed. Natural pain remedies, such as the use of ice or hot water, are often recommended. Painkillers can be administered as needed.


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