Rheumatology and Fibromyalgia


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If you’ve had fibromyalgia for a while, you’ve no doubt come across the phrase “rheumatology” at some point. But as with so many things in the world of fibromyalgia, you might not have learned much about it before your diagnosis. But visiting a doctor who specializes in rheumatology is pretty common for people who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia. And many of the doctors who specialize in fibromyalgia are also rheumatologists.

Getting a referral from your doctor to a rheumatologist might lead to more effective treatment for your condition. But before you do, there are a few things you should consider. So what is rheumatology? How does it relate to your fibromyalgia? And can visiting a rheumatologist help with your treatment?

What Is Rheumatology?

Rheumatology is a field of medicine that focuses on diseases that affect the joints and muscles. Rheumatologists commonly focus on conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders. But nearly any condition that causes chronic pain to the joint and muscles falls within the umbrella of Rheumatology.

Rheumatologists are licensed doctors who attend a four-year medical school and then specialize in rheumatology through a period of residency at a hospital. They typically practice in outpatient clinics and most often treat patients who are referred to them by a general practitioner.

Rheumatologists are experienced in dealing with these sorts of conditions. So generally speaking, they’re more capable of handling long term pain conditions involving the joints and muscles. They may know of new medications and be more up to date on which are most effective.

How Are Rheumatology And Fibromyalgia Related?

As you might have guessed from the description, fibromyalgia is a condition that interests rheumatologists. It causes the kind of chronic muscle pain that rheumatologists specialize in treating. And if you’re diagnosed with fibromyalgia, odds are pretty good that you’ll find yourself being referred to a rheumatologist at some point.

Rheumatologists aren’t usually the first line of treatment for people with fibromyalgia, however. Generally, people with fibromyalgia should consult with their general practitioner first.

But while fibromyalgia patients aren’t usually immediately referred to rheumatologists, many rheumatologists see enough fibromyalgia patients to acquire experience in the subject. The combination of experience treating chronic pain conditions and treating fibromyalgia patients specifically often means that rheumatologists can offer some valuable expertise when it comes to treating your fibromyalgia.

And rheumatologists also specialize in treating diseases of the immune system. That makes rheumatology a relevant field when it comes to treating fibromyalgia. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that fibromyalgia involves the immune system. Many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, like chronic fatigue and joint pain, are the same as that of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. So rheumatologists will likely know how to treat some of these symptoms.

Should You See A Rheumatologist?

Figuring out if a rheumatologist is best for you is a decision that should be worked out with your primary care physician. If you feel like the treatments your doctor is offering you just aren’t effective, then asking for a referral to a rheumatologist may be a good move.

And it’s possible that a rheumatologist may be more qualified for treating your condition. But remember that not every rheumatologist is going to be completely familiar with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is still a poorly-understood condition. So many rheumatologists may not be able to offer anything that your general practitioner isn’t.

But rheumatology is still a specialized field that handles conditions like fibromyalgia. So seeing a rheumatologist might be helpful in finding a treatment that works for you. The trick is to find a doctor who specializes in rheumatology who also has experience treating with fibromyalgia.

Ask around in the fibromyalgia community for recommendations. Many people who suffer from fibromyalgia have a rheumatology doctor who has really helped them with their treatment. Most would be happy to give you a tip about where to find a good doctor in your area. And when you’re getting a referral from your doctor, make sure to ask if the rheumatology specialist they want to refer you to has experience with fibromyalgia.

If not, Fibromyalgia Centers of America’s website offers a directory that you can search to find a doctor in your area who specialize in treating fibromyalgia. Many are also rheumatologists. Though if not, they can likely refer you to a local rheumatologist who does specialize in it.

So, do you visit a rheumatologist for your fibromyalgia? Were they able to offer you better treatment than your general practitioner? Is there a rheumatology doctor in your area that you would recommend to others who live nearby? Let us know in the comments.