When you have fibromyalgia, visits to the doctor can be confusing and frustrating as you search for answers and treatment for the many different fibromyalgia symptoms you may have. You may have many different symptoms and lots of questions. It can be hard to know how to address all your concerns in a short office visit -- or what your doctor needs to know to best treat your condition.
For help with these issues, we turned to Scott Zashin, FACP, FACR, clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas; Afton Hassett, PsyD, associate research scientist in the department of anesthesiology at the University of Michigan’s Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center in Ann Arbor; and Kris Corleone, a fibromyalgia patient and founder and president of the New York Fibromyalgia Association. Each shared their thoughts on what fibromyalgia patients can do to get the most out of each office visit. Neither Zashin nor Hassett is treating Corleone for her fibromyalgia.
When it comes to fibromyalgia treatments, there are drugs, alternative remedies, and lifestyle habits that may help decrease pain and improve sleep. Your fibromyalgia specialist may prescribe pain medication or antidepressants to help end the pain, fatigue, depression, and anxiety that comes with the disease. In addition, your doctor may recommend physical therapy, moist heat, regular aerobic exercise, relaxation, and stress reduction to help you self-manage your symptoms.
There is no one "pill"...
What’s the best way to prepare for a visit to the doctor?
Zashin: Spend some time getting clear on what you want to get out of your appointment. If you have specific reasons or goals for your upcoming visit, prioritize the top one to three that are most important to you. Examples of questions to ask yourself before going to see your doctor:
Are you looking for help with a particular symptom?
How does that symptom affect your life?
Does it stop you from doing certain tasks or activities?
When do your symptoms bother you the most?
Is there anything that makes it feel better? (Basically, the more specific you can be about your symptoms, the better.)
Are you unhappy with a medication?
Is it causing side effects? If so, what are the side effects?
Is your fibromyalgia medication not helping as much as you'd like?
Are you hoping to change your medication?
Corleone: Before my visits with the doctor, I think about any questions I have and write them down. Specific questions are generally best. Being open-ended leads to a broad and sometimes less satisfactory answer. I usually do a little research on my own, too. That way, I have some knowledge before I go into the appointment and I can ask educated questions.
I also call ahead to make sure my doctor has copies of any tests I’ve had done at other locations. That way, we can discuss the results at my appointment.