When to go to the doctor? Is it worth going to the doctor? What exactly is the point of going to the doctor? How do you choose the right time to be a burden on the healthcare system?
It is safe to say that 99 times out of 100, doctors will say, “It’s just something you’re going to have to get used to” or “There really isn’t anything we can do about it” or “There is no treatment” or “Take a pill.” The last one isn’t quite a quote, but likelihood is that some sort of pain medication is offered in lieu of a way to “cure” a pain. The rest of the time, the doctor will say, “Let’s just be sure we’re not looking at x, y, or z. Let’s do some imaging.” Imaging is good, because let’s face it, as people with fibromyalgia get older, there is a good likelihood that at some point there will be something other than fibromyalgia going on that can be treated. It’s good to get baselines established. But once those baselines are established, and a fibromyalgia diagnosis is set, one of the most difficult things to do is to let go, forget about going to the doctor, setting your mind to remembering aching is not an injury, move, move a little more, and then move again.
There are dangers to this mindset. Sometimes, the pain isn’t fibromyalgia. The sharp, stabbing pains I felt in my rib cage were massive pulmonary emboli – my near-fatal episode. Not fibromyalgia. After that, I have a rule. When I have a new, previously unexperienced symptom – for example, the intense nerve pain I am having in my foot right now – I go to the doctor, fully expecting to be told there’s nothing wrong with the nerves in my foot, that I don’t have a new rheumatic process happening, that I’ll just need to get used to it or wait for it to fade. I’ve told my doctors, a new resident every three years, that’s what I will do. If it’s new, they’ll see me. I can generally figure out new pain, whether it’s actually new or a developing stage of fibromyalgia. I wait a reasonable time, then I’ll go in and make sure it’s not something else. For example, when severe pelvic pains started – ultrasounds and other imaging later, I could be assured this was not something dangerous, forget about it. Now when it comes and goes I just wait it out. No problems.
Personally, this works for me. This works for my doctors. They know when they see me that I have a concern that needs to be addressed and after it is addressed, I’ll go away. It seems to be a pretty good balance between being a burden and being responsible for my health. I’ll wait to go in to the doctor, though, for my foot. It’s only been a few days.