People with fibromyalgia see many medical professionals. You may see as many as four or five providers in a single month depending on your:
- other health issues
- personal treatment preferences
Knowing about the professionals you’ll come in contact with can help set your mind at ease and decide who can best help you with the management of your condition.
Primary care doctors
You should make an appointment with your primary care doctor if you’re experiencing any fibromyalgia symptoms. They should be able to rule out other conditions, diagnose the syndrome, and refer you to a rheumatologist with more expertise in diagnosing and treating the disorder.
Diagnosis of fibromyalgia isn’t 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 the worst
- what aggravates or soothes your symptoms
- if you’re getting enough sleep
- if you’ve experienced any recent physical or emotional trauma
Your doctor may be able to 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’ll most likely be your main doctor during the treatment of your disorder. Your rheumatologist will need to know all about your symptoms as well as what you believe may be affecting you’re the severity of your symptoms.
Your rheumatologist will perform initial and follow-up tests and monitor how well treatment is working. They’ll also prescribe and adjust medications when necessary.
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
Psychologists and psychiatrists both treat mental disorders like anxiety and depression. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and can prescribe medications. A psychologist isn’t a medical doctor and cannot prescribe medications, but they may hold a doctorate and therefore carry the title of “doctor.”
These doctors may be able to help you manage feelings of despair and pain. Fibromyalgia frequently leads to depression and the depression can worsen your symptoms.
Both psychologists and psychiatrists can provide counseling and other forms of therapy that are useful for fibromyalgia. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, helps those with depression by challenging the negative self-talk that can worsen your mood. You may use one-on-one sessions or take part in a support group led by one of these professionals.
Physical and occupational therapists
Physical and occupational therapists help people strengthen muscles and joints. This can help you perform everyday activities better. They also help find ways to go about daily life with less pain. They can help you be more active and 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 are available at a clinic.
Other treatment professionals may play a role in the treatment of fibromyalgia. They include massage therapists, pharmacists, and personal trainers.