Power to the Patient: Being Your Own HealthCare Advocate

self confidenceMore so than many other health concerns, Fibromyalgia is a condition where patients often have to be strong “self advocates” when it comes to finding the appropriate help. Although most providers today are finally starting to diagnose Fibro, unfortunately there are still some that are not “up to speed” and even more that may be dismissive of the symptoms patients are experiencing. If that is the case, patients need to either seek care elsewhere or be more assertive with their doctor.

Things are changing quickly in healthcare and with the “baby boomers” now enjoying the benefits of computers and the information era in full swing, medical knowledge, self help and self advocacy is now the norm. I know that there are still many doctors out there that enjoy that paternalistic role and really dislike being questioned at all but it is they that must be the ones to change. Knowledge can only be a good thing and patients that research and learn about their conditions often can help bring about a much more successful healing.

I often use an expression when talking with my patients “knowledge is power”. When a person does not fully understand what is going on, there is often some fear. Fear is stressful and stress can either delay or stop any healing from taking place. This is a known physiological fact and that is why I become concerned when I hear of patients not having a full understanding of their conditions. It is also one of the main reasons why I spend a great deal of my time in the office explaining and teaching my patients exactly what is going on when they have any kind of pain. It may be a patient with Fibromyalgia or it may be a patient with a sprained lumbar spine. In either case the need to fully understand what is going on is very important.

It is truly amazing how the human mind works. The brain controls the body and thoughts have an enormous effect on brain chemistry. A very simple example of this is how quickly adrenaline is released when someone is frightened. In Fibro as in many other health issues, chemistry plays a key role in what direction the condition will take. This is the main reason why I am concerned about the communication that takes place between patients and their health care providers. When a doctor is “dismissive” of a patient’s symptoms, it is understandable that they are sure to feel an enormous amount of frustration. On the other hand, a doctor who paints a picture of “gloom and doom” or scares a patient into unnecessary testing is certainly going to cause fear and make matters worse.


I am going to make a statement that I am fairly confident is accurate; most of you who read this site are already pretty educated when it comes to Fibromyalgia. Some of you have researched this condition for quite some time and know most of the latest studies. You are to be commended and you are surely on your way to finding the proper way to manage your condition. Now, how do you bring a physician on board with you? All patients sometimes need to be reminded that they are the ones that are hiring the doctor not the other way around. You need open dialog with your doctor where questions and answers are shared. You also need enough time given for this to occur. It may be a good idea when making your initial appointment to state that you have or think you may have Fibromyalgia. You should then ask if the doctor sees patients with Fibromyalgia and if so, will there be a sufficient amount of time during the initial visit to discuss your concerns. When a Fibro patient schedules an appointment in our office they are told that they will be with the doctor for 60 to 90 minutes.

Remember “knowledge is power” and you are the “captain of your own ship”. For some of you that may be an overwhelming feeling, however, the more control you have over this condition, the more empowered you will become.