“My doc tells me I have to live with the pain,” one patient emailed the National Fibromyalgia Association. “I went to a local rheumatologist who walked in the room and told me he wasn’t giving me narcotics. I didn’t ask for any, nor have I ever! He told me to buy a book and pretty much help myself.”
This was one individual’s experience—but it’s not an uncommon one for patients who have fibromyalgia and other chronic illness. Some studies have even looked at the phenomenon; one such study, in the October 2003 issue of Social Science and Medicine, found that women with medically unexplained disorders have reported negative experiences during their medical encounters: their complaints were met with skepticism and their doctors belittled them or even blamed them for their condition.
So how can you find a fibro-friendly medical professional—one who can accompany you on the road to recovery, rather than hinder your journey?
- Connect with a local fibromyalgia support group, either in person or online. Find out which doctors members of the group see—and which ones they don’t, and why. You can find a state-by-state list of support groups on the NFA website.
- “To avoid any potential problems, be sure that your doctor was trained at a reputable institution and has a valid medical license,” NFA president Lynne Matallana writes in her book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fibromyalgia. “Without a medical license, a doctor is not legally allowed to treat patients. To verify a medical license in your state, you can contact the Federation of State Medical Boards at (817) 868-4000.”
- Call your insurance company and obtain a directory of physicians that accept your insurance plan.
- In From Fatigued to Fantastic, Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum—himself a fibromyalgia patient—suggests banding together with other FM patients to interest a physician in dedicating time and energy into learning more about the disorder and its treatment.
- Contact the National Fibromyalgia Association for a list of “fibro-friendly” doctors in your state. The medical professionals on these lists have been recommended by FM patients and other medical professionals.
- Before you meet with a physician for the first time, make a list of the most important questions you want to ask the physician—perhaps how many FM patients he or she treats, or his or her feelings about complementary treatments.
- Keep searching until you are satisfied with the treatment you’re receiving—and the attitude with which that treatment is given. “It may help you to think about your physicians as service providers and you are a consumer purchasing assistance for your condition,” Dean L. Mondell, MD, and Patti Wright write in Living with Fibromyalgia. “Drop your physicians if they refuse to cooperate, be understanding, or treat you as a team member in your own care. If you are having trouble finding the right providers and you need help, it may be easier to consult the physician about individual symptoms. Name the symptom, state its severity (mild, moderate, severe), and request treatment for it.”
Finding a doctor who can partner with you as you try to better manage your health isn’t easy—and the process can be discouraging when you don’t achieve success right away. But with the right attitude and the right approach, you can make your search for a fibro-friendly doctor a successful one.