While there are many treatment options for fibromyalgia, we are going to focus on three specific medical approaches. Only you can determine which approach is most suitable for you, especially considering that there are no tests to determine a diagnosis. You’ll have to base it on criteria such as the following:
- Experience: both personal and shared
- Accessibility: consider your location and insurance
- Personal preference: holistic vs. specialization
A rheumatologist approaches fibromyalgia in the same way as it does rheumatic diseases; that is, those diseases characterized by inflammation or pain, such as lupus and osteoarthritis, that affect joints, muscles, and bones. There certainly appears to be mixed feelings from fibromyalgia patients as to the efficacy of rheumatology treatment. However, many physicians actually rely on the American College of Rheumatology Guidelines in order to diagnose fibromyalgia. Rheumatologists will usually require a physical exam that includes testing pressure and tender points, as well as conducting blood tests to rule out other possible rheumatic diseases. Treatment plans include medication, complimentary alternative therapies (e.g., massage therapy, acupuncture), cognitive behavioral therapy, and any combination of these methods.
Many neurologists approach fibromyalgia as a neurological disorder and are thus eager to treat it by focusing on the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. Through fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), neurologists have developed a growing body of evidence that shows fibromyalgia patients do not respond at all like average patients when it comes to certain stimuli, such as pain and pressure. A neurologist will focus on helping you manage your pain through medications, injections, physical therapy, and yoga, as well as other non-traditional means of treatment known to retrain the brain. Keep in mind that seeking neurological treatment will only help if the fibromyalgia is indeed related to a disorder of the central nervous system, as many neurologists suspect. In fact, some researchers believe fibromyalgia is the result of a pain processing disorder in the brain; thus, a neurologist could be the best practitioner to help treat your pain very specifically.
An osteopath approaches medicine holistically. That is to say, they look at the patient in terms of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Osteopathy is a thorough review of your musculoskeletal system, biomechanics, respiratory and circulatory systems, neurology, metabolic and energy systems, and behavior. All of these factors are examined to help not only alleviate your symptoms, but also get to the source of them.
If you are already seeing a general practitioner, chiropractor, physical therapist, and massage therapist, ask for a referral. This is ideal because you are not their only fibromyalgia patient and they probably treat a number of patients or clients who rant and rave about various local physicians. In fact, you may need a physician referral for your insurance company to approve your visit anyway. Not only will visiting these practitioners facilitate the management of your treatment, but they also provide a credible diagnosis. That can protect you legally so that if you ever have to quit work and apply for disability, you’ll have a much better chance of getting benefits with a physician diagnosis.
No matter which route you choose, always ask how much experience the physician has had with fibromyalgia before settling on a decision.
Have you found a kind of doctor or field that has been particularly helpful to you? Please share with us so that we can get the word out and help others.