Fibromyalgia: Questions to Ask When Meeting a New Doctor

The list of questions below are for people who have been satisfactorily diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and who are interviewing new physicians to see if they‘re right for you. When you have Fibromyalgia odds are you’ll be dealing with many different healthcare professionals throughout your life. Whether you’re meeting a doctor, rheumatologist, neurologist, physical therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor or anything else for the first time the questions below will help you to weed out the bad and hopefully find someone who will help you manage your pain and get back to your life. Below are the questions to ask and the responses you want to hear from your perfect doctor.

Questions to ask:

Do you know what Fibromyalgia is?

What you want to hear: Of course I do. Fibromyalgia is a very painful condition with murky/controversial/uncertain causes such as sleep disturbance, chemical imbalance, neurological abnormalities and heightenend chemical stress but with a number of potential treatments such as medication, physcial therapy, accupunture etc.

They may even have a definitive idea of what causes it but the truth is no one knows 100% and you don’t want a doctor who’s going to ignore new research to stick to old beliefs.

Have you treated patients with FMS before?

What you want to hear: I have.

With certainty. If they hesitate or seem unsure they may not be the best option.

How many?

What you want to hear: At least three.

If they aren’t certain how many ask for a definite minimum. I’ve heard people beat around the bush with words like ‘a few’ and ‘some’ and then know nothing about FMS.

What were your results?

What you want to hear: To be honest the results have been varied. One of my patients responded to [something] in this way but I’ve found that [something else] is most effective. However, everyone with FMS responds to different treatments differently so let’s discuss your options.

You want them to be specific, honest and have realistic outcomes in mind.

What causes FMS?

What you want to hear: There are many different theories including sleep disturbance, chemical imbalance, neurological abnormalities and heightenend chemical stress but no one knows for sure yet.

As I said above there is nothing wrong with you’re doctor prescribing to a particular theory, but if they are so dedicated to one theory that they refuse to listen to other theories or new research they’re not likely to be much help.

What can I do to feel better?

What you want to hear: There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make such as avoiding sugar and caffeine, maintaining a moderate exercise routine, reducing alcohol intake and learning to pace yourself but FMS is a real physical condition and there is only so much that you, personally, can do to feel better. That’s where myself, and other medical professionals come in.

It’s true that the lifestyle changes above can make a significant difference in how you’re feeling from day to day but few people can beat FMS on their own. It’s also important to have a doctor who recognises that there is more than one way to treat FMS.

When will it go away/What’s the cure?

What you want to hear: There is no cure today for FMS, though there are a number of effective treatments. And in fact there is no cure on the horizon. Some people do recover, or go into remission, but there’s no sure fire way to make that happen.

Unfortunately it’s true, there is no cure for FMS. If you find a healthcare provider of any kind is trying to sell you a cure it's a scam. They’re not likely to be of any help.

Things you don’t want to hear:

-It’s all in your head.

-It’s caused by depression.

-You just need to lose some weight. If you are significantly overweight getting to a healthier size will be easier on your body and may cause your pain to go down. However, unless you are morbidly obese it is very unlikely that being overweight caused your FMS. And even if it did, you'll probably still have FMS after losing weight.

-I have a cure. Pay me and you’ll get better.

-You just need to get some sleep.

-That’s not a “real” diagnosis.

Any similarly flippant remarks are generally unhelpful. If you feel you’re not being heard or respected by your doctor remember that you are under no obligation to stay. FMS is an incredibly difficult condition to live with and you don’t need misinformed doctors to make it worse. Just move on.

Finding a doctor who can be your guide and partner in your healthcare can be especially difficult when you have Fibromyalgia. Odds are you’ll go through many different kinds of healthcare providers before you find the right fit(s). In many cases FMS is best treated by a team of healthcare providers all offering different treatments. Don’t let anyone treat you like you’re stupid or lazy. Don’t take anyone’s crap. Have patience, and keep trying. You’ll find the right doctor sooner or later.

A disclaimer: If you have been diagnosed with FMS and you meet a healthcare provider who is respectful, well-informed and knows that FMS is a real condition but also believes that you may have been misdiagnosed I would give him/her the time of day. If there’s any realistic chance what you’re suffering from isn’t FMS I’d jump on it and go for the diagnostic tests. It would be terrible to find your FMS untreatable and then discover that it’s because that’s not what you had.

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