Fibromyalgia tends to be a very difficult illness to treat. Because there are so many different symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome and because no cause has yet been identified, it is often impossible to effectively treat this illness. Your best bet is to look to a number of different health practitioners in order to find the treatment options that work best for you. A neurologist can often be very helpful in helping to diagnose your illness and in recommending appropriate treatments.
What is a Neurologist?
A neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and managing nervous system disorders. Neurologists deal with medical problems that occur in the two parts of the nervous system: the central nervous system (which includes the brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (which includes the nerves, nerve roots, and muscles). They often perform tests and special examinations on various parts of your nervous system in order to properly diagnose and treat illness.
What Qualifications Does a Neurologist Have?
Neurologists need to complete years of special education and training in order to become board licensed and certified. All certified neurologists have completed four years of pre-medical training, four years of medical school training, and a one-year internship in internal or surgical medicine. They have also completed three years of specialized education in a recognized neurological residency program. All neurologists must then be licensed after completing a lengthy test. In the United States all neurologists are licensed by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology or by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
What Conditions Does a Neurologist Treat?
Neurologists can help treat a variety of different conditions, ranging from minor aches and pains to serious illness. Neurologists often deal with patients suffering from:
- facial pain
- head injury
- stroke or tumors
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis and other muscle diseases
How Can a Neurologist Help Fibromyalgia Sufferers?
Neurologists often form an integral part of the diagnosis and management of fibromyalgia. This is because many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia may actually be related to a disorder of the central nervous system. Researchers have theorized that fibromyalgia is actually the result of a pain processing disorder within the brain. Based on this information, a neurologist is one of the best medical practitioners a fibromyalgia patient could see. A neurologist can help to narrow down the cause of your pain and treat it specifically.
What Does A Neurologist Examine?
Neurologists examine specific aspects of your health and wellness in order to determine how efficiently your nervous system is working. If you visit a neurologist, she will likely assess your:
- head and neck nerves
- memory and cognition
- speech and language
- muscle strength and movement
What Tests Does a Neurologist Perform?
Neurologists need to be able to get a good look at all aspects of your central and peripheral nervous system. This means that your neurologist will likely perform a number of different diagnostic tests. These tests often help to produce visual images of the way your brain, muscles, and nerves are functioning. Some common tests performed by neurologists include:
- CAT scan (computed axial tomography)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- EEG (electroencephalography)
- EMG (electromyography)
These diagnostic procedures often involve the use of high-tech, and sometimes frightening-looking equipment. However, most of these tests are completely pain free.
What To Expect When You See a Neurologist
If you decide to see a neurologist, you should expect to receive a proper evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment plan for your fibromyalgia. Typically, treatment is ongoing, so you can anticipate to return to your neurologist on a regular basis for follow-up appointments.
Your neurologist will begin diagnosis by examining your medical history as well as your symptoms. He will likely perform a variety of blood tests in order to rule out disorders that are commonly confused with fibromyalgia, like rheumatoid arthritis. You may also be given a lumbar puncture (or spinal tap) to assess the quality of your spinal fluid. You will likely undergo a variety of other diagnostic tests, such as an MRI and CAT scan.
After diagnosis, your neurologist will recommend a treatment plan in order to relieve your specific symptoms. Neurologists often recommend combination therapy, which includes physical therapy, exercise, and medical treatments. Medical treatments commonly offered by neurologists for fibromyalgia include:
- trigger point injections
- nerve blocks
- pain medications
Finding a Neurologist
The best way to find a neurologist is to ask your current health care provider for a referral. Most neurologists work out of hospitals or in a private practice. Be sure to inquire about your neurologist’s qualifications and about his experience in treating fibromyalgia. You may want to ask your local fibromyalgia organization or support group for the names of qualified neurologists in your area.