American College of Rheumatology

View all recommendations from this society

Released February 21, 2013

Don’t test for Lyme disease as a cause of musculoskeletal symptoms without an exposure history and appropriate exam findings.

The musculoskeletal manifestations of Lyme disease include brief attacks of arthralgia or intermittent or persistent episodes of arthritis in one or a few large joints at a time, especially the knee. Lyme testing in the absence of these features increases the likelihood of false positive results and may lead to unnecessary follow-up and therapy. Diffuse arthralgias, myalgias or fibromyalgia alone are not criteria for musculoskeletal Lyme disease.

These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

How The List Was Created

The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) established a Top 5 Task Force to oversee the creation of its recommendations. As part of this group’s work, a multistage process combining consensus methodology and literature reviews was used to arrive at the final recommendations. Items were generated by a group of practicing rheumatologists in diverse clinical settings using the Delphi method. Recommendations with high content agreement and perceived prevalence advanced to a survey of ACR members, who comprise more than 90% of the U.S. rheumatology workforce. Based on member input related to content agreement, impact and item ranking, candidate items advanced to literature review. The Top 5 Task Force discussed the items in light of their relevance to rheumatology, level of evidence to support their inclusion, and the member survey results, and drafted the final rheumatology Top 5 list. The list was reviewed by a sample of patients with rheumatic disease and approved by the ACR Board of Directors. For further details regarding these methods, please see the manuscript published in Arthritis Care & Research at

ACR’s disclosure and conflict of interest policy can be found at


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Hu LT. Lyme disease. Ann Intern Med 2012;157(3):ITC2-1.

Wormser GP, Dattwyler RJ, Shapiro ED, Halperin JJ, Steere AC, Klempner MS, Krause PJ, Bakken JS, Strle F, Stanek G, Bockenstedt L, Fish D, Dumler JS, Nadelman RB. The clinical assessment, treatment, and prevention of Lyme disease, human granulocytic anaplasmosis, and babesiosis: Clinical practice guidelines by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis 2006;43(9):1089-134.