Do I Need a Fibromyalgia Specialist?

Fibromyalgia is often called an invisible disease. There's no specific test to diagnose it, and it can be puzzling to a doctor who's not familiar with the condition. The symptoms overlap with many other illnesses, so it's possible to be misdiagnosed.

Don't be discouraged if you need to see a few different doctors. A specialist may be in a better position to understand what's going on with you and create a treatment plan that eases your symptoms and helps you feel better.

What to Look For

First, you want someone who will take you seriously. Your doctor needs to believe your pain, fatigue, and thinking problems are real and be willing to try to do something about them.

Because your treatment may involve more than one health care professional, you'll also want a doctor who is well-versed in the complex world of fibromyalgia to oversee it all: medication, physical therapy, nutrition, acupuncture, sleep management, and biofeedback, for example.

People with fibro often have other ailments, too, including irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, and jaw pain. Your doctor should know how to deal with these, or work well with another provider who can care for you.

Primary Care Doctor

Not all general internists or family doctors are familiar with fibromyalgia. But if yours is and has treated others with the condition, they may be the one to spearhead your treatment.

Rheumatologist

These doctors specialize in musculoskeletal and autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis and gout. Though fibromyalgia isn't a form of arthritis and doesn't cause inflammation or damage to joints, muscles, or other tissues, the symptoms someone with fibro feels are similar.

Rheumatologists often coordinate the types of care you'll need, so one could be your top choice for fibro treatment.

Pain Medicine Specialist

They come from a variety of fields, including internal medicine, neurology, orthopedic surgery, and psychiatry. A pain clinic may also have a team of physical therapists, nurses, and occupational therapists on staff to help treat your overall symptoms.

Find out more at the website of the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

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How to Find a Fibro Doctor

First, ask your regular doctor for a referral, or call your health insurance company and ask for a list of rheumatologists or pain management clinics in your network. You can also ask friends for recommendations, if you know someone with a similar condition.

You could reach out to fibro support groups such as the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association or the National Fibromyalgia Association to get the names of specialists in your area.

To help decide if a doctor is a good match for you, consider asking things like:

  • Do you recommend medications, and if so, which ones?
  • How do you feel about complementary treatments such as acupuncture and supplements?
  • What can I do at home to ease my symptoms?
  • What can I do at work to feel better?
  • How can I explain my condition to people who might not understand?
  • Do you know of any local support groups for people with fibromyalgia?

The answers should make you should feel comfortable with them and confident that they're looking out for you. The relationship works best when it's a partnership and you're both in agreement.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on August 20, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Questions and Answers About Fibromyalgia."

American Academy of Family Physicians: "What Is Fibromyalgia?"

Arthritis Foundation: "Fibromyalgia Treatment."

American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association: "What is Fibromyalgia?"

American College of Rheumatology: "Fibromyalgia."

American Academy of Pain Medicine: "Patient Center."

FibroCenter.com: "Selecting the Right Doctor for Fibromyalgia Pain Relief."

New York Times: "What to Ask About Fibromyalgia."

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