People with fibromyalgia see many medical professionals. You may see as many as four or five providers in a single month depending on your:
- complete diagnosis
- other health issues
- personal treatment preferences
Knowing the professionals you will come in contact with can help set your mind at ease and decide who can best help you with the management of this syndrome.
You should make an appointment with your primary care doctor if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. They should be able to rule out other conditions, positively diagnose the syndrome, and refer you to a rheumatologist with more expertise in diagnosing and treating the disorder.
Diagnosis of fibromyalgia is not a simple matter. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and your symptoms. They may ask you to measure your pain on a scale. They may use what’s called a tender point test, which measures your sensitivity to pain by applying pressure to 18 specific sites throughout the body. Be sure to tell your doctor:
- what your symptoms are
- how long you’ve had symptoms
- if the pain is throbbing, piercing, or shooting
- where the symptoms are worst
- what aggravates or soothes your symptoms
- if you are getting enough sleep
- if you’ve experienced any recent physical or emotional trauma
Your doctor may be able diagnose fibromyalgia or may refer you to a specialist for further exams and treatment.
A rheumatologist is a doctor with special training in treating diseases of the muscles, joints, and connective tissues. These include:
- rheumatoid arthritis
They will most likely be your main doctor during the treatment of your disorder. Similar to your primary care doctor, your rheumatologist will need to know all about your symptoms and the things you believe may be playing a role in their severity.
The rheumatologist will perform initial and follow-up tests and monitor how well treatment is working. They will also prescribe and adjust medications as needed.
Questions for your rheumatologist may include the following.
- What can I do to reduce the pain?
- How can I prevent flare-ups?
- Are there activities I should avoid?
- What other treatment providers might help?
Psychologists and psychiatrists both treat mental disorders like anxiety and depression. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D.) and can prescribe medications. A psychologist is not an M.D. and cannot prescribe medications, but they may hold a Ph.D. and as such, carry the title of “doctor”.
These doctors may be able to help you manage feelings of despair and pain. This condition frequently leads to depression and the depression can worsen symptoms.
Both can provide counseling and other forms of therapy useful for fibromyalgia. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, helps those with depression by challenging the negative self-talk that can worsen their moods. You may use one-on-one sessions or take part in a support group led by one of these professionals.
Physical and occupational therapists help people strengthen muscles and joints to better perform everyday activities. They also help find ways to go about daily life with less pain. This therapy can help you be more active and help you create effective exercise programs. They may assist with stretching and range of motion exercises. Some of these therapists come to your home for visits while others require you to visit a clinic.
Other treatment professionals may play a role in the treatment of fibromyalgia. They include massage therapists, pharmacists, and personal trainers.