10 'Red Flags' That Might Mean It's Time to Find a New Doctor for Your Fibromyalgia
A doctor who has been to medical school and earned their qualifications certainly has more expertise in their chosen field than the average person. However, this doesn’t always guarantee they will be a good “fit” for every patient who comes into their office – and even if they specialize in a fibromyalgia-related field, such as rheumatology or pain management, it doesn’t always mean they’re an expert on fibro.
Finding a doctor who listens to you, cares about you and is knowledgeable about fibromyalgia (or at least willing to learn!) can be tricky – and for some, seeking out new doctors may be limited by factors such as location, finances or insurance. But if you’re in the process of searching for a new fibro doc, there may be some “warning signs” you should watch out for that could help determine whether this doctor will be a good fit.
We asked our Mighty community to share the “red flags” that indicated it was time to find a new doctor to treat their fibromyalgia. Of course, it’s up to you whether you want to find a new doctor because of these red flags. But know that you deserve to be treated with respect and compassion, always.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1. If they believe fibromyalgia is “psychosomatic.”
“When you see ‘psychosomatic’ in the notes from your visit, or when the rheumatologist you see won’t prescribe medications to help with the pain because the ‘source’ of your pain is being overweight even though she just diagnosed you with a chronic illness.” – Heather M.
“I once had a doctor tell me that all of my pain was in my head and I needed to see a therapist to work through my issues. Not a physical therapist, one to fix the idea of pain in my head.” – Sarah B.
2. If they don’t listen to you during your appointment.
“When they don’t listen to you or talk over you.” – Lori A.
“It’s time for a new doctor when you can tell they did zero prep for your appointment and they ignore you to look at your medical record during your appointment.” – Margrethe W.
3. If they don’t seem to care about your wellbeing.
“If the doctor seems insensitive or uncaring. Or doesn’t really want to put efforts into helping you find relief, I would then really think about changing doctors!” – Letia N.
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4. If they brush off your symptoms as “just” depression.
“When he suggests all of your symptoms, even the ones with diagnostic evidence to the contrary, are the result of depression… even when double doses of antidepressants and anxiety meds have little to no effect…” Merri E.S.
“When he tells you the pain is just a symptom of depression.” – Ellen H.F.
5. If they don’t consider fibromyalgia a valid or serious diagnosis.
“Years ago, when I was trying to get officially diagnosed with fibro, a PA at my old practice called it a ‘trash bag diagnosis.’ I refused to see him again after that, even if it had nothing to do with my fibro.” – Kristen R.
6. If they aren’t open-minded about treatment options and won’t discuss them with you.
“I spent 10 minutes talking about how I’m constantly in pain, how I thought for a while that it was just normal, and how doing basic things (a.k.a. walking, laying down, sitting) hurt. He told me to use a cold water bottle and ibuprofen, even when I expressed that neither worked.” – Taylor J.
“When the only treatment option you’re offered is aqua therapy.” – Bobbie S.D.
“When you let them know what symptoms you’re really struggling with and ask what will help and they say, ‘Nothing, it’s just part of life now’… only to have other (less qualified) doctors actually come up with useful ways to manage symptoms.” – Alexandria P.
“When you break down in their office trying to explain how you don’t know how much longer you can work, you’re in pain constantly even after trying all these coping strategies and their only response is to ‘avoid stress and try water aerobics.’ Then sending you away with no pain management or any lab tests for any further information.” – Julie A.
7. If they believe you must be “fine” because all your tests are negative.
“When the doctor stops listening and says, ‘Everything is fine and blood work looks good.’ Because of my lupus you can’t trust the blood work! Lupus messes with everything in your body including blood work. Always keep looking for another opinion.” – Amber H.K.
“If they basically call you ‘nuts’ for all the pain you have because they can’t ‘see it’ on their tests… not fun.” – Paige W.
8. If they blame all your symptoms on weight without thoroughly investigating.
“[When a doctor says,] ‘Oh it’s because of your weight.’ I understand that my knees and hips might hurt because I’m fat, but I refuse to accept that all my other symptoms are a product of weight. (TMJ pain, IBS, temperature sensitivity?)” – Gabi H.
“For me it was when my rheumatologist was only suggesting weight loss as a treatment. Her logic was ‘you’re already on the medication so there’s nothing more I can do.’ While I understand losing weight could help, that advice didn’t really help when I was constantly in pain and getting nauseous every day because of my medication.” – Shelby C.
9. If they tell you to “just be more positive.”
“When they tell you you just need to cheer up and maybe do yoga. I was perfectly cheerful until she told me I was still in pain because I wasn’t keeping my chin up!” – Hannah L.
“The first doctor I went to pushed [a medication] on me. I told him I see a lot of comments on bad side effects. I told him I would like to look at other therapies including other medication. He promptly told me ‘I need to think more positively.'” – Ivy T.
10. If they don’t have an understanding of fibromyalgia, and won’t educate themselves on the condition.
“Run, and run far, when you hear the word psychosomatic, or ‘fibrositis.’ Doctors that tell you what’s wrong with you, using outdated terminology that indicates they don’t even bother to keep themselves informed, are just no good.” – Lea J.
“When the doctor refers to Google for a diagnosis.” – Juggy
“I asked my doctor to test me for fibro because the people close to me had seen my symptoms firsthand and suspected that’s what it could be. He refused the first time and said, ‘Fibro can be a learned behavior, too.'” – Amalia B.
“When they mispronounce fibromyalgia #truestory.” – Jenn H.
Photo by Martin Brosy on Unsplash