Also known as the “invisible disease” fibromyalgia is characterized by musculoskeletal pain often accompanied by fatigue, memory, sleep, and mood problems. About 4 – 6 % of the US population is said to be affected by fibromyalgia.
Unlike other medical conditions, fibromyalgia does not have any specific diagnostic tests. If the doctor has not treated fibromyalgia before, it will be very puzzling to them, and they might end up misdiagnosing a patient.
The fact that symptoms of fibromyalgia overlap symptoms of other illnesses, adds to the confusion.
Treatment of fibromyalgia is not restricted to one particular doctor. Specialists in different fields of medicine are better placed to understand the symptoms (mostly related to their area) and create a treatment plan that will serve you better.
The Doctors To Look ForSince many doctors are not specialized in fibromyalgia, they often end up either dismissing the symptoms or misdiagnosing them.
For a doctor to treat fibromyalgia, they have first to believe what you are telling them and that your symptoms of fatigue, pain, and memory and mood issues are real and not a figment of your imagination.
Fibromyalgia patients also have other comorbid conditions such as headaches or IBS, among others.
Since fibromyalgia treatment involves many specialties, getting a doctor who can oversee different aspects of the treatment like medication, acupuncture, sleep management, nutrition, physical therapy, etc. is the first step in treating your condition.
Your doctor either has to have the knowledge to treat these or interact and coordinate care with other doctors who can provide appropriate care.
Primary Care DoctorYour GP is generally the first point of contact when it comes to any ailment. However, many doctors are not too familiar with fibromyalgia. If your doctor is familiar with fibromyalgia, talk to them, and make them oversee your care.
RheumatologistA rheumatologist deals with autoimmune and musculoskeletal diseases. Fibromyalgia symptoms usually involve pain in the muscles and joints and who better than a rheumatologist to decide whether it is related to any musculoskeletal or autoimmune conditions, or is it something else.
Rheumatologists often coordinate fibromyalgia treatment, so having one in your treating physicians group should a topmost priority.
Pain Medicine SpecialistPain specialists come from different fields like neurology, orthopedic surgery, internal medicine, and psychiatry.
A pain clinic generally has a team of nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists who can help with different aspects of the treatment.
Finding The Right DoctorVery often, during the initials stages of the ailment, doctors do not believe the patients and dismiss their symptoms. This results in unnecessary delays in starting treatment.
A doctor familiar with fibromyalgia, on the other hand, is more empathetic and can help in the management of your symptoms. However, finding these types of doctors is challenging, if not impossible.
Ask yourself these questions to decide if the doctor you are visiting is a fit for treating you
- Does the doctor recommend any medications? If so, which medications?
- Does he/she advocate the use of complementary treatment protocols such as supplements or acupuncture?
- What steps should I take to ease the symptoms?
- Steps to follow to make my day at work pain-free and better
- Measures to take for explaining my medical condition to those who cannot understand the ailment
- Does your doctor know about local support groups that deal with fibromyalgia?
Networking with fellow fibromyalgia patients. The starting point can be support groups like the National Fibromyalgia Association. Their website has a list of support groups for every single state. Visit it to find support groups in your state.
These support groups also tend to provide doctors who are adept at dealing with fibromyalgia.
Seek the opinion of your primary. Many doctors know specialists who deal with fibromyalgia condition and can guide you. Do not hesitate to call up offices of doctors who you plan to include in your treatment program.
Ask the staff how frequently the doctor sees fibromyalgia patients and do they provide treatment on an ongoing basis. Also, what is the general treatment regimen that they offer?
Most importantly, if your doctor is still not taking your symptoms seriously, do not hesitate to walk away. Finding a specialist willing to listen to you and ready to coordinate your care is much better than having a doctor who dismisses these symptoms and is insensitive.