Fibromyalgia is a complex condition, and the best person to help you cope may be a fibromyalgia specialist. Here’s how finding the right professional could ensure that you receive the most appropriate diagnosis and treatment for you.
What is a Fibromyalgia Specialist?
A fibromyalgia specialist is a doctor or other healthcare professional who is skilled at diagnosing and treating this debilitating condition. Although your primary care physician may have some knowledge about fibromyalgia, they probably will not be as familiar with it as a specialist.
Furthermore, some family doctors are still not convinced that fibromyalgia is even a real disease. Although this situation is becoming less common, if you find that your physician is skeptical about your diagnosis, you might not receive the treatment that you need.
Since fibromyalgia has such a wide range of symptoms, your healthcare team could include various professionals who specialize in treating fibromyalgia, for example:
- Pain specialist.
- Physical therapist.
- Occupational therapist.
- Alternative healthcare practitioner.
What sets a fibromyalgia specialist apart from other healthcare professionals is that they will have undertaken extra training in this field. They should be up to date with the latest research, drugs and technologies that can be used to manage the condition.
What Does a Fibromyalgia Specialist Do?
If you suspect that you may have fibromyalgia but have not yet been diagnosed, a fibromyalgia specialist can help. Your consultation might include a physical examination as well as taking a detailed medical history. You may also be offered blood tests to rule out any other conditions with similar symptoms.
Before your first appointment with a fibro specialist, it is a good idea to note down any information that may be relevant. Your specialist may ask you about:
- Your symptoms.
- When your symptoms started.
- How your symptoms affect your daily life.
- What makes your symptoms better or worse.
- Anything that may have triggered your symptoms (recent illness, trauma, surgery, etc.).
- Any other medical conditions.
- Family history.
You should also make a note of any questions that you want to ask during your consultation. It is all too easy to forget about these in the heat of the moment and come away feeling that you did not get all the answers you need.
If you have already been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a specialist can help you to develop an effective treatment plan. This plan may involve medication, therapy and lifestyle changes depending on your situation.
How Can a Fibromyalgia Specialist Help?
Although fibromyalgia is currently incurable, a specialist can help you manage its symptoms in the most effective way. There are many different types of healthcare professionals who specialize in fibromyalgia and they all have their own areas of expertise.
Primary Care Physician
Although your primary care physician may not be a fibromyalgia specialist, they will have seen patients with the condition many times before. They may be able to offer a diagnosis or refer you for further tests if necessary. They can also prescribe medication to help you to manage your symptoms.
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A rheumatologist is a doctor who specializes in musculoskeletal problems, such as joint pain. They are often the specialist of choice for people with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis. Although fibromyalgia is not an autoimmune disease, it does share many symptoms with these conditions.
A rheumatologist can provide tests to rule them out and confirm your fibromyalgia diagnosis. They can also prescribe medication if necessary.
A neurologist specializes in treating nervous system disorders. They can help with symptoms such as pain by prescribing traditional painkillers or other drugs such as antidepressants or anticonvulsants.
A pain specialist can also help you to cope with your fibromyalgia pain. As well as prescribing medication, they might recommend other pain management techniques such as relaxation, exercise, or alternative therapies.
A psychologist can help you to cope with emotional symptoms such as depression and anxiety. They might also be able to teach you pain management techniques using practices such as mindfulness or CBT.
A physical therapist can design a regime of exercises and stretches to help you manage pain and stiffness.
An occupational therapist specializes in making day-to-day life more manageable. They might recommend changes to your home or work environment to accommodate your condition.
Alternative Healthcare Practitioner
Many people with fibromyalgia find alternative therapies such as acupuncture or massage helpful. Look for a practitioner who has experience in treating fibromyalgia for the best results.
How to Find a Fibromyalgia Specialist
There are several ways to find a fibromyalgia specialist in your area. The most common route is through a referral from your family doctor. However, some people choose to find a fibromyalgia specialist independently, either through their insurance company or a recommendation from friends.
If you are a member of a fibromyalgia support group, this can be a great place to start. Ask your fellow members if they have seen a specialist that they particularly liked, and why.
When choosing a fibromyalgia specialist, there are a few different factors to take into account. You may want to consider:
- What specific training they have undertaken.
- How long they have worked with fibromyalgia patients.
- What kind of medication/therapies they usually recommend.
You may also want to consider whether a specialist is a good listener and respects your choices before going ahead. Never be afraid to ask questions or put forward your opinion to ensure that you find the right specialist for you.