Although there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, a multidisciplinary team effort using combined treatment approaches, including patient education, aerobic exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacologic therapies have been shown to improve symptoms and function in patients with fibromyalgia. Helping patients to identify which combination of these therapies makes the most impact on their quality of life can be part of a successful symptom self-management system. Education is paramount to the success of this kind of protocol, both for healthcare professionals as well as the patient. A team approach is the key to the overall success of this type of program, but it takes time and effort for a busy physician to create the team and then to monitor its success. At a minimum the number of team members must include: a physician to oversee the overall treatment regimen including prescribing and monitoring medications; an a complimentary medicine professional to guide the patient in discerning what type of alternative therapy protocols might be beneficial, such as an aerobic exercise program and who monitors the program’s success, makes appropriate activity changes and motivates the patient; and a mental health expert adept at cognitive behavior therapy who can also counsel patients in learning how to make adjustments in their life to accommodate changes that naturally occur when living with a chronic illness.
Identifying and treating painful comorbid or overlapping conditions is also an important part of any treatment regimen. If a patient’s symptoms include irritable bowel and migraine headaches, then the treating physician should concentrate on remedies for those disorders. Once their symptomology is under better control, the fibromyalgia specific symptoms might be more distinct and easier to treat. The difficulty with this approach is that most FM patients have so many different symptoms, the physician might be overwhelmed and not know where to begin in a successful treatment regimen. This problem accentuates the need for more physician education which gives the tools necessary to identify overlapping conditions and what to do about them in the treatment of FM.
Along with appropriate medical care it is important for the person with fibromyalgia to recognize the need for lifestyle adaptation. Most people are resistant to change because it implies adjustment, discomfort and effort. However, in the case of FM, change can bring about recognizable improvement in function and quality of life. Becoming educated about FM gives the person more potential for improvement.
The good news is that since 2007 when the first of three FDA approved FM medications became available, continuing medical education programs focused on primary care physicians and other healthcare professionals have helped to broaden medical awareness about how to make an FM diagnosis and how to initiate effective treatment protocols.