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Fibromyalgia (FM) and CFS/ME tend to be very difficult illnesses to treat. Because there are so many different symptoms of FM and CFS/ME it is often impossible to effectively treat these illnesses. 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?

In the U.S. 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:

How Can a Neurologist Help?

Neurologists often form an integral part of the diagnosis and management of FM or CFS/ME. This is because many of the symptoms of FM or CFS/ME may actually be related to a disorder of the central nervous system. Researchers have theorized that FM or CFS/ME 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 FM or CFS/ME patient could see. A neurologist can help to narrow down the cause of your pain and treat it specifically.

Most Neurologists will do a complete neurological exam. A FM or CFS/ME patient may exhibit two neurological findings. One is called the Tandem Romberg. The patient places one foot in front of the other with their knees slightly bent, and they shut their eyes for five seconds. Many patients have trouble with this balancing test, and it is a "hard" neurological sign. The other test that can be done is positive in about 10 percent of patients. Take a cotton swab and very gently brush it against their toes and their fingertips. If they can't feel it, this may suggest that they might have peripheral neuropathy that adds to their fatigue and may make this patient a bit different to treat.

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
  • reflexes
  • memory and cognition
  • speech and language
  • muscle strength and movement
  • balance

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 FM or CFS/ME. 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 FM or CFS/ME, 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 FM or CFS/ME 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 FM or CFS/ME. You may want to ask your local FM or CFS/ME organization or support group for the names of qualified neurologists in your area. Our Doctor Database consists of 7363 doctors in 80 countries worldwide that specialize in treating people with FM and/or CFS/ME, many of which are neurologists.

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