Fibromyalgia and Your Primary Care Physician

Fibromyalgia and Your Primary Care Physician

Do you have fibromyalgia? This condition is characterized by muscle aches and pain throughout the body. You may experience tenderness in your joints and your tendons. Your primary care physician will diagnosis, treat and manage your symptoms.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

People who have fibromyalgia report that symptoms associated with the disease, such as pain, increase when they are trying to rest or relax. These same symptoms are not as perceptible when a person is exercising or more active. In addition to chronic pain, symptoms associated with fibromyalgia syndrome include:

  • Sleep disruptions
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Tingling or numbness of the limbs
  • Memory problems
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems

Fibromyalgia is more common in women than men. Research shows that women are affected at a ratio of 7:1 when compared to men.[1]

There is no agreed upon cause of fibromyalgia. Researchers and doctors suggest that stress, emotions, and problems with brain-nerve connections may be to blame. For example, when your body does not get the sleep it needs, it does not produce needed chemicals to help monitor pain.

The Primary Care Physician

If you have the symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome you will want to see your primary care physician. Primary care physicians are general practitioners. He or she can assess and diagnosis your symptoms.

Your primary care physician knows you better than any other doctor. You have an ongoing relationship with this physician and the health professional can evaluate your symptoms in relationship to your medical history.

Here are the four ways your primary care physician can help you:

  • Diagnosis: Your primary care physician will work with you to diagnosis your symptoms and determine if you have fibromyalgia syndrome
  • Treatment: The doctor will treat your symptoms and help you manage the continuing care of the disease.
  • Co-Conditions: Your physician will treat any symptoms that present along with the fibromyalgia.
  • Normal Healthcare: Your primary care physician will continue to offer you regular healthcare for anything not associated with fibromyalgia.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your diagnosis of fibromyalgia syndrome is dependent on numerous factors. First, your primary care physician will review your medical history. The health professional will want to exclude similar medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or tendinitis.

You will undergo a physical examination and discuss your current symptoms with your physician.  ‘Tender points’ normally found at specific locations on fibromyalgia patients are examined. These tender points cause pain when pressure is applied. Eighteen tender points have been identified on the body. A diagnosis of fibromyalgia requires the identification of tenderness at eleven of these points.[2]

Treatment for every fibromyalgia patient is individualized. Your treatment will be based on your general health, your medical history, how many tender points you have, how much pain you are in, and other symptoms.

You can expect your primary care physician to suggest lifestyle changes that include exercise, diet, and stress reduction. You may be given pain medication to help with pain.

Questions to Ask Your Physician

When meeting with your primary care physician, you will have many questions. Here are a few important questions to ask during the diagnosis of the disease:

  • Is there another reason I have these symptoms?
  • What are the newest medicines for treating fibromyalgia?
  • What if I do not see results from medications?
  • If you give me an anti-depressant to treat my symptoms does that mean I have psychological problems?
  • How will an anti-depressant help my fibromyalgia symptoms?
  • What medications should I not take?
  • Will I need to make lifestyle changes?
  • Is there a way to lessen my fibromyalgia flare-ups?
  • Can I over-do it?
  • What about alternative therapy like yoga and meditation?
  • Can I take supplements?
  • What is my long term outlook

Your Health Care Team

Your primary care physician will likely refer you to specialists for further evaluation and treatment. This is called a team approach. It means that you are getting the best possible care. Your primary care physician will manage the ‘team’ and coordinate the treatments and ongoing care.

What other doctors can you expect to see? Your physician may refer you to a rheumatologist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a pharmacist, a chiropractor, a physical therapist, or an occupational therapist. Each specialist will have experience treating patients with fibromyalgia syndrome and can help you with your specific symptoms.

Fibromyalgia is not a curable condition; however, it is very treatable. With the help of your primary care physician, you will be able to manage your symptoms, have less pain, and lead a full life.

References

[1]  Fibromyalgia. (n.d.). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/fibromyalgia.htm

[2]  Treating Fibromyalgia. (n.d.). Retrieved from American Family Physician: www.aafp.org/afp/2000/1001/p1575.html

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