Fibromyalgia and the Neurologist

Fibromyalgia and the Neurologist

If you are concerned that you may have fibromyalgia, you might have heard how difficult it is to diagnosis and treat this medical condition. The symptoms of the disease are numerous. No single cause of fibromyalgia syndrome has been determined, and this adds to the frustration you may feel when finding effective treatment.

As a fibromyalgia patient, you will likely search for a variety of treatment options. Many fibromyalgia patients seek care from a neurologist. A neurologist can aid you in the diagnosis of your condition and help you with treatment and continuing care.

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a disease that presents with widespread pain in the muscles, sleep disruptions, chronic fatigue, and neurological complications. Patients who have fibromyalgia report having ‘tender points’ on the neck, shoulders, back, arms, hips, and legs

[1] These tender points cause pain when pressure is applied.

Fibromyalgia is more common in women than men. It is estimated that eighty percent of fibromyalgia sufferers are women.[2] Patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and spinal arthritis are more likely to have fibromyalgia.

Getting Help from a Neurologist

A neurologist is a physician who has advanced training in disorders of the nervous system. The medical professional can diagnosis, treat and help patients manage these types of disorders. A neurologist focuses on medical issues involving the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, including the muscles and nerves.

When you visit a neurologist, the doctor will perform specific tests and physical examinations directly involving the nerves to help diagnosis medical problems.

Neurologists treat patients suffering from a wide range of symptoms including:

  • Headaches
  • Pain of the face and head
  • Head injuries
  • Strokes
  • Tumors
  • Epilepsy
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis

The Neurologist and Fibromyalgia

Current research theorizes that symptoms of fibromyalgia are closely related to a central nervous system disorder. The disease may be partly due to a pain processing ‘disconnect’ affecting the brain and the nervous system. Your neurologist can help you pinpoint your symptoms, your pain, the causes of your pain, and offer you treatment.

Your Visit to the Neurologist

Your neurologist will exam the wellbeing of your nervous system. He or she will discuss your symptoms and your medical history with you. You can expect your neurologist to look at your:

  • Head
  • Neck
  • Reflexes
  • Memory
  • Speech
  • Language
  • Muscle Strength
  • Movement
  • Balance

Your neurologist will request blood work. This will help rule out other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis that are sometimes mistaken for fibromyalgia syndrome.[3] Some neurologists request a spinal tap to examine a patient’s spinal fluid.

In addition to a general physical exam, your neurologist may ask for more specific testing. This will allow the neurologist to get a more detailed look at your nervous system. These diagnostic tests provide visual images of your brain and your nervous system:

  • Computed Axial Tomography – CAT Scan
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging – MRI
  • Electroencephalography – EEG
  • Electromyography – EMG

Once the neurologist has reviewed your tests and lab work, a diagnosis will be discussed with you. If you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome, the neurologist will begin a treatment regimen to help ease your symptoms.

While there is no cure for the disease, your neurologist can help you manage your condition. He or she will work with you to develop a treatment plan that best fits your needs and lifestyle. Your treatment plan will focus on your specific symptoms and can include:

Medical Therapy: Neurologists offer medical treatments for fibromyalgia that include injections at certain trigger points, nerve blocks, and pain medications.

Exercise and Physical Therapy: If you suffer from fatigue, it may seem difficult to imagine that exercise can improve your symptoms. However, it is one of the most recommended treatments for fibromyalgia sufferers. Your neurologist may recommend walking or other gentle exercises such as swimming. He or she may also suggest you seek advice and treatment from a physical therapist.

Healthy Sleep: Exercise will help you sleep. In addition, your neurologist may recommend other sleep therapy treatments.

Stress: Stress is a huge factor for fibromyalgia patients. Many patients are anxious and depressed. Yoga, meditation, or therapy may be suggested by your neurologist.

Your treatment with a neurologist will be continuous. You will meet with your doctor frequently during the diagnosis stage of the process. Once diagnosed, you should expect to return for regular follow-up appointments to monitor your progress. It is hoped that one day medical researchers will identify the specific causes of fibromyalgia so that personalized treatments can be developed. In the meantime, your neurologist stays up-to-date on current research so that you get the best medical care possible.

[1] What is Fibromyalgia. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Institute of Health: www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/fibromyalgia/fibromyalgia_ff.asp#b

[2]  Ibid

[3]  Comparison of pain properties in fibromyalgia patients and rheumatoid arthritis patients. (n.d.). Retrieved from U.S National Library of Medicine NIH: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3487324

This article was originally published on July 11, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/7/2015