Managing Fibromyalgia with Your Doctor

Ask the Expert

Q:

Fibromyalgia is a complicated condition. What are some tips for communicating effectively with my health care provider about how to manage the disorder?


A:

Fibromyalgia can be challenging to treat.  Symptoms may wax and wane, and many patients require an integrated treatment approach for optimal management. Your relationship with your health care provider (HCP) and your health care team will be ongoing. Learning how to ask questions, communicate any concerns, describe your symptoms, and your response to different treatments are key aspects of developing a solid relationship with your HCP. The ultimate goal is to work together as a team to develop and stick with a management plan that works best for you.

Everyone has a preferred method of communication, be it email, phone, fax, text message or one-on-one meetings. Ask your HCP what works for her:
•    Is it OK for you to occasionally email questions?
•    Does she respond more quickly to phone messages?
•    Or does she prefer you save a list of questions and bring them to an in-person appointment?

Agreeing on an efficient communication method that works for you both can help your HCP stay up-to-date on your health status. You’ll likely feel more respected and cared for, and you may also save time and avoid frustration.

Keep a daily symptom journal. Make notes about:
•    Symptoms you may or may not be experiencing
•    Your exercise program
•    What you eat and drink
•    Your management program, including any medications you may take
•    How you’re feeling emotionally
•    Concerns or questions about your health
•    Anything you want to be sure to share with your HCP to help inform your treatment plan

Over time, you’ll find that a faithfully maintained journal is a terrific way to measure success and spot patterns that can affect your treatment plan, both for you and your HCP. Plus, if you have trouble remembering specifics, your journal can be a great reference.

Prepare for each appointment by making sure your journal is up-to-date, preparing a list of concerns or questions to discuss, and knowing if you’ll need to give blood or take other tests that might require you to fast the day before. When you book your appointment, ask for enough time to address all the concerns you have, and when you confirm your appoint the day before, verify that enough time is reserved so neither you nor your HCP feels rushed.

If you’re nervous or have trouble speaking up during appointments, bring an advocate who can take notes for you. This can be a friend or family member, someone you trust to speak up on your behalf if you’re hesitating. Medical consultations can be intimidating, and even the most seasoned patient sometimes needs a little help. If you have trouble remembering everything your HCP says, your advocate’s notes will be a helpful reference.

What if you’re keeping a meticulous journal, doing your best to communicate with your HCP in the method she prefers, arriving to appointments fully engaged and prepared…but you still don’t feel comfortable with the relationship? It’s probably time to look for another HCP, someone who better fits your personality and needs. No matter how fantastic your HCP is, if you don’t feel like your relationship is a partnership—if you’re not comfortable expressing concerns, discussing different management options, or simply being honest when something doesn’t work for you—then you may need to work with someone else.

It might take a little research, but it’s worth it to find an HCP who is a true partner in managing your fibromyalgia…and helping you get the most out of life.

The health information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a health care provider. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a health care provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patient.


Supported by Pfizer Inc.

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