What Type of Doctor Should I See for Fibromyalgia?
The first thing to do is talk with your primary care doctor. A primary care doctor is a general practitioner who has had at least three years of additional training after graduating from medical school. He or she may be a family practice doctor or an internist — someone who specializes in internal medicine and the study of disease in adults.
As your primary doctor, he or she can best assess your problems. He or she can also make the necessary referrals to a fibromyalgia specialist — such as a rheumatologist or neurologist — if you need further treatment or special care.
Should my Fibromyalgia Doctor Be a Board-Certified Specialist?
Finding the right doctor to treat fibromyalgia takes homework. You need to make sure the health care professional you choose is board certified in his or her specialty. You also need to know about the doctor’s experience in pain management, specifically with treating fibromyalgia.
To be board certified, a doctor needs to have completed at least three years of premedical education in a college or university, four years of medical school resulting in a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy degree, and at least three years of specialty training in an accredited residency program.
What Types of Doctors Specialize in Treating Fibromyalgia and Pain?
Here is a list of some of the doctors who specialize in treating fibromyalgia and pain:
- Rheumatologists diagnose and treat arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles, and bones. This includes fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus, back pain, osteoporosis, bursitis, and tendinitis.
- Pain specialists are usually board certified anesthesiologists, neurologists, physiatrists, psychiatrists, or oncologists with additional training in pain management. They may receive credentials from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) in collaboration with the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (ABPMR) and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABP&N). Or they may receive credentials from the American Board of Pain Medicine.
- Neurologists diagnose and treat disorders of the nervous system. This includes treating common pain problems such as headaches, back pain, muscle disorders, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD).
- Orthopaedists specialize in the diagnosis, clinical treatment, and surgical repair of bone injuries. They also treat muscle problems and joint tissues — tendons, ligaments, cartilage.
- Psychologists diagnose and provide therapy for problems associated with pain, perception, depression, and anxiety.
Will my Fibromyalgia Doctor Communicate With my Primary Health Care Provider?
Be aware that problems may occur when you have more than one doctor administering treatment. While both doctors are working to make you well, unless there is effective communication between them, you could find yourself in a precarious situation regarding your health. It’s important to have one doctor who knows all about you — your condition, your specific fibromyalgia symptoms, your treatment plan, and the specific fibromyalgia medications you are taking. It’s also important to be knowledgeable yourself so that you can accurately report details of your treatment and any changes in medication in case you have more than one health care provider.
How Do I Select a Fibromyalgia Doctor?
To choose a fibromyalgia specialist, some people ask friends for recommendations. Others check a doctor’s credentials or call the local hospital for referrals. You also need to check the list of doctors who will accept your insurance provider.
None of these methods, however, is foolproof. Finding a qualified professional with whom you can feel comfortable sharing your innermost feelings and concerns about your fibromyalgia symptoms will take time and effort.
Perhaps one of the most important steps to take when selecting this health care professional is to know yourself. That includes knowing your personal likes and dislikes. Do you feel more comfortable with a man or a woman? Do you want your doctor to be older than you, the same age, or younger? Do you have a preference as to educational background? These questions are important to consider when making your selection.
What Other Questions Should I Consider When Choosing a Fibromyalgia Doctor?
Ask the following questions as you go through the process of choosing a fibromyalgia doctor:
- Is the doctor board certified?
- Where did the doctor go to medical school? Your local medical society can provide this information.
- Is the doctor involved in any academic pursuits, such as teaching, writing, or research? This kind of doctor may be more up-to-date on the latest developments in their field.
- Where does the doctor have hospital privileges, and where are these hospitals located? Some doctors may not admit patients to certain hospitals. This is an important consideration for people with chronic health problems.
- Does the doctor accept your particular type of health insurance, or is the doctor a member of the medical panel associated with your HMO?
Should I Meet a Fibromyalgia Doctor Ahead of Time?
Plan an initial consultation with a potential fibromyalgia doctor. During this meeting, which will include a detailed interview and physical exam, you and the doctor can get to know each other. Effective communication between patient and doctor is important if you want to receive the highest quality care.
During the initial interview, ask the doctor questions about preferred methods of treatment. Does the doctor seem to relate well to people? Do you feel at ease talking with the doctor? Are your questions answered? Is he or she current in using the latest methods of treatment?
Your doctor needs to be accessible, especially when you’re dealing with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia. When you are ill, availability is important. Make sure your choice of a doctor yields a person who is not only an excellent doctor but also one who is available and attentive to your personal needs. Does the doctor allow ample time with you for you to get quality care? Are your questions answered clearly, and are the necessary tests being done?
Check on office hours and make sure these fit with your daily schedule. How is payment made? What insurance providers are accepted? Ask for information about emergency availability and charges. Is your doctor always on call or are other doctors sharing the load? Even the receptionist’s responses might set the tone and help you decide if this is the right office. The support staff will be the ones who help you most with prescriptions, the necessary lab work, X-rays, and appointments with hospitals or other professional services.
How Can I Help the Doctor Get an Accurate Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia?
To help the fibromyalgia specialist make an accurate diagnosis, make lists of the following items, add your own concerns to the lists, and bring the lists with you to your first visit:
- Any health concerns you have
- The fibromyalgia symptoms you’ve noticed
- Past illnesses and medications you took
- All the over-the-counter and prescription medications you are taking
- Questions you have about your health, fibromyalgia, and pain
- Your family history of illnesses
- Lifestyle habits that may affect your health — for example, diet, exercise, and smoking
- Causes of stress in your life
Also, bring your medications, vitamins, and natural dietary supplements with you to the first visit. Your doctor will need to see what you are taking each day.
When Should I Call my Fibromyalgia Doctor?
Call your fibromyalgia doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Widespread muscle tenderness and pain, particularly on both sides of the body and both above and below the waist
- Disturbed sleep (tossing, turning, waking up frequently during the night) and waking up feeling tired and not rested
- Muscle and joint stiffness that doesn’t get better when you move around
- Any change in your symptoms
If you have fibromyalgia, be alert to symptoms of chronic fatigue, stiffness, depression, anxiety, and a loss of interest in things you usually enjoy. Also be aware of changes in eating and sleeping habits. These can often be successfully treated if you tell your doctor about them.