If you have a primary care physician with whom you've established a good rapport, discuss your concerns regarding fibromyalgia. Chances are she has other patients with the same illness, but if not, provide her with information you've found helpful. She may or may not remain the gatekeeper in your care, but she should be able to help you find a physician who is familiar with fibromyalgia and able to help you.
In the past, rheumatologists were the specialists who diagnosed and treated fibromyalgia. However, since research is indicating that FM is most likely a central nervous system problem, some rheumatologists are no longer taking FM patients. Check with the rheumatologists in your area to see if they will treat fibromyalgia. Logically, if FM is a central nervous system issue, neurologists would be the specialists that should treat it. Unfortunately, most neurologists are reluctant to add fibromyalgia to their practices. A few, however, have jumped on board. Again, check with the neurologists in your area to see if they will treat FM.
If your doctor is not knowledgeable about FM and is not able to recommend someone, your best resource for finding a doctor who is knowledgeable about fibromyalgia in your area is probably a local support group. (Check ProHealth's Support Group Listing
to find a group near you. ) FM message boards are also a good place to ask if anyone knows of a good doctor in your area. (Visit ProHealth's FM message board
Talking with family and friends may shed some light on your search as well. Hearing of a physician with compassion, one who spends time with patients and listens, goes far when making a decision. Overall, you want to find a physician who is committed to learning as much as she can about the condition so she can provide you with the best possible care.
Do a little research on the doctors you are considering. First, check with your insurance carrier to find out which health care providers are covered by your plan. If there aren't any suitable doctors in your plan, inquire about out-of-network coverage and charges. Next, check out the doctor's medical credentials and whether there have been any malpractice suits or disciplinary actions against her. Below are just a few resources to help you begin your research:
- American Medical Association's Doctor Finder includes physician profiling information such as medical school, training and specialty.
- The American Board of Medical Specialties will tell you if your doctor is board certified and in what specialties. "Board certified" means the doctor has completed two additional years of training and passed a national examination. "Board eligible" means the training, but not the test, has been completed.
- Contact your state's Board of Medical Examiners to find out about any history of malpractice suits.
- Find out how other patients feel about a doctor you are considering. There are several Web sites, like RateMDs.com where patients rate their doctors. This particular site covers doctors and dentists in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and India.
As with any chronic illness, navigating your way within the medical world will require you to be your own advocate. This means being proactive about your care, staying informed, and being organized about your needs during each appointment. This is not an easy road, and balancing the medical, insurance and care aspects of your health is going to require clarity and work on your part.