10 Reasons to Fire Your Fibromyalgia Doctor

10 Reasons to Fire Your Fibromyalgia Doctor

By Donna Gregory Burch

Visit any online fibromyalgia support group, and you’ll probably encounter plenty of physician horror stories. I’ve read accounts of doctors yelling at their patients, calling them fat and lazy, saying their symptoms are all in their heads and worse.

Donna Gregory Burch

Whenever I see these posts, my comment is always the same: Find a new doctor!

Yes, I know sometimes it’s not that easy. Some people are in circumstances where it’s not an option to switch doctors, but most of us DO have a choice in which doctor we see for our medical care.

And yet, time and time again, I see patients who allow themselves to be abused by so-called medical professionals. Why do we allow this to happen? Physicians don’t get a pass from basic human decency just because they have a fancy medical degree and make lots of money.

I think it’s time for us to start treating our physicians as we do other customer service providers. We are paying them for a service, right? So here are nine situations where it’s perfectly acceptable to fire your doctor and seek out a new one!

Reason #1: He doesn’t believe in fibromyalgia

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three drugs for the treatment of fibromyalgia, and there are more than 9,000 fibro-related studies listed on PubMed, the largest online database for medical research. Considering that, there should be no question that fibromyalgia is a real condition, but shockingly there are still doctors who don’t believe in it.

If you ever encounter a physician who says fibro doesn’t exist or something similar (i.e. fibromyalgia isn’t a real diagnosis, fibromyalgia is a wastebasket diagnosis, etc.), RUN as fast as your fatigued legs will carry you out of that exam room and don’t look back!

You are wasting your time if you’re working with a physician who doesn’t believe in fibromyalgia. After all, he’s not going to properly treat what he won’t even acknowledge.

Reason #2: He says it’s all in your head

There’s research indicating fibromyalgia pain originates in the brain, but that’s not what most doctors mean when they say, “It’s all in your head.” What they really mean is this: You’re crazy. You’re a hypochondriac. You’re making it up. You’re just a pill seeker. Blah, blah, blah.

When I was shuffling from doctor-to-doctor trying to get diagnosed, I ran into the “it’s all in your head” mentality way too many times. Most of the physicians didn’t come right out and say those words verbatim, but it was implied when they repeatedly tried to diagnose me with depression and prescribe an antidepressant.

If a physician says or insinuates it’s all in your head, use your head and find a new doctor!

Reason #3: He isn’t trying to help you

Fibromyalgia is a mysterious, difficult-to-treat illness, but that isn’t an excuse for your doctor to give up on you as a patient. If he’s not doing his job by trying to find solutions for your pain, fatigue and other symptoms, then make it your job to find a doctor who will!

Reason #4: He gets annoyed when you make suggestions

I believe patients should take an active role in their medical care by staying up to date on the latest research and treatments for their illness. Unfortunately, a lot of doctors don’t appreciate Dr. Google medical degrees. They become irritated or make snide remarks when their patients bring in research studies or ask about certain treatments.

I’m not sure why they behave this way. Maybe they’re aggravated that they spent eight-plus years in medical school and know less about fibromyalgia than we do. Maybe they’re control freaks and are threatened because they feel like we’re questioning their expertise.

Whatever the reason, fibromyalgia is an extremely challenging condition to manage. What works for one of us doesn’t work for all of us, so you need a physician who is open to discussing and trying different treatment options. If your physician shuts you down when you make suggestions regarding your treatment, it may be time to consider shutting the door on that doctor/patient relationship.

Reason #5: He doesn’t listen to you

My former nurse practitioner was instructed by her employer to limit all patient appointments to 12 minutes. Putting tight time limits like that on physicians almost guarantees that they’re constantly going to be multitasking (i.e. looking at their computer screen or tablet while you’re talking) and rushing to get to the next patient.

We’ve probably all encountered those situations where we’re still asking questions as our doctors are walking out of the exam room door, but if it happens every single time you see your doctor, then maybe you should lighten his workload by being one less patient he has to see.

Reason #6: He disrespects you

This can come in many forms. Maybe he yells or laughs at you. Maybe he shames you for taking pain medications. Maybe he discounts your symptoms (i.e. “oh, you’re just getting older,” “I hurt all the time, too,” etc.). Whatever form it takes, it’s wrong! Don’t let yourself be neglected or abused by the very person who is supposed to be helping you!

Reason #7: He says, “You wouldn’t have fibro if…”

There are too many variations of “you wouldn’t have fibro if…” to list, but here are some common ones:

You wouldn’t have fibro if you lost some weight.

You wouldn’t have fibro if you exercised.

You wouldn’t have fibro if you would just get up and move more. 

Yes, there are studies that say exercise is helpful for managing fibromyalgia symptoms. Yes, many of us do feel better when we’re closer to our ideal weight. Yes, it’s good to be active.

But there is NO study anywhere that says fibromyalgia is caused by being fat, lazy or not exercising. Exercise is NOT a cure for fibromyalgia, and neither is diet. They are tools – not cures! Your doctor knows this, and it’s disingenuous to imply otherwise.

Reason #8: He tells you to “stop thinking about it” 

One time I had a doctor say to me, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you need to stop thinking so much about your pain.”

Yeah, doc, you’re absolutely right. If I just stop thinking about my pain, it will disappear! Wow, you’ve cured me! (Insert eye roll here.)

Needless to say, I am no longer a patient of that doctor because he obviously doesn’t understand the day-to-day life of a chronic pain patient. I don’t know why some doctors try to invalidate our symptoms. Maybe they feel helpless that their usual tools – pharmaceutical drugs and surgery – can’t fix us.

But regardless of why, if a physician’s advice is to “stop thinking about it,” that’s a signal that you may need to start thinking about replacing him!

Reason #9: He says, “At least you don’t have cancer”

Look, I know the big “C” strikes terror in pretty much everyone. I don’t discount how serious it is, but at least cancer has a finality about it. As harsh as this sounds, you either get better or you die, and in most cases, you’ll know the outcome fairly quickly.

With fibromyalgia, you’re basically suffering for years and years with no end in sight. Maybe there will be a breakthrough in research tomorrow, or maybe it’ll be 100 years from now when all of us are long gone. Who knows if and when the pain will end?

Comparing fibromyalgia to cancer is another way for physicians to invalidate us as patients, and it’s just plain wrong!

Reason #10: He blames everything on fibromyalgia

After you’ve had fibromyalgia for a while, it’s easy to ascribe every new symptom to “just fibro.” But what if those heart palpitations are a sign of a more serious problem? What if that pain in your hip is actually osteoarthritis and could be remedied with the right medication? What if the majority of your fatigue isn’t caused by fibromyalgia but by an undiagnosed thyroid condition?

Don’t allow your physician (or yourself) to fall into the habit of blaming every new symptom on “just fibro” because doing so can lead to unnecessary suffering and have tragic outcomes. You need a physician who will dig deeper and try to find the underlying causes of your symptoms. If your doctor isn’t doing that, then it may be time for you to dig into your health insurance’s online provider portal and find a new doctor!

Now it’s your turn…What’s the worst thing a physician has ever said to you? Would you add anything to this list? Share in the comments! 

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.

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Authored by: Donna Gregory Burch

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.

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Sandy Auriene Sullivan

I know this is a little late but when my doctor asked me if I thought he was stupid while bringing in research; I turned to him stunned and said

“Absolutely not, I think you are busy and cannot focus on one illness to research the way I can…”

We also disagreed about the od epipen for 3 years until he had a nurse slide me a script quietly and I saw a *stack* of them. He now asks me questions and we talk to each other on the same level.

Medical MJ and chronic pain! It became legal in Florida and he started researching it. I was too. For my brother with end stage cancer but it led me to find something that actually worked on the nerves that felt healing and the brain to cope with pain. I told him *do not get registered* which he found surprising. Fact is until the Feds recognize it – it puts his license [DEA] in jeopardy. Recommend under current law; I told him and he’s listening.

Been with him 7 years now. It’s not always easy but sometimes it’s a matter of getting to know each other. He knows my son is in medical research now; he used to ask why my son was taking so many years of Latin in High School [my doc is from India] and I said, hey Doc you use Latin every day; it’s the language of science and medical today.

Thing is, I trust him today too. Trust isn’t given easily by either side. He had to trust me too; when my brother had the dx given after 13yrs remission – I ran out there. 4 days early. My medical staff helped me make sure I could go early by allowing me to fill early.

Ive fired many doctors and almost fired this one in the first 18 mos. Today I am happy I didn’t.


Patricia Richardson, It is YOUR experience that opiates caused you more pain but it is not everyone’s! I was stable on pain meds for 8 years and because of people who put everyone in the same box my medication has been severely reduced and consequently the pain that I live in has drastically increased! What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all!

Patricia Richardson

Devin, there is a syndrome where opioids can produce pain… but have misspelled the word. It is hyper-ALGESIA . Your word was “analgesia”, meaning less pain. I have experienced it. Sadly, I had to explain this concept to my PAIN DR. who was trying to convince me to use a fentynl patch to control my pain, since it was getting worse with hydrocodone. Opioids are fine for when you need, but long term use is a downhill slide. I feel much better being off opioids (surprised me!).

martha lee

I had to find a new G.P. a few years ago. During my second visit he told me that I would always have pain, and that I would die in pain. plus he said that no doctor wanted to be my doctor and no doctor wanted me as a Pt.
btw i take no narcotics. didn’t ask him for any ….dumprd him . fast. I .finally i found a new GP who though much kinder. didn’t find out the cause of my pains…so i asked for a referral to a Rheumatologist…who said all bloodwork was negative and pretty much dismissed me
I had terrible hand pain (plus known DDD, osteoarthritis, multiple herniated discs MRI proven)
I requested an MRI.
She ended up apologising to me!!
I have severe R.A. in my hands, wrists, spine, feet….
I am sero negative Rheumatoid Arthritis and sero negative R.A. has a very high relationship with Fibromyalgia!!!
I am now seeing a Physiatrist. a medical Dr. who specifically is in the field of body mechanics . mobility…
Ten years is a very long time to battle pain with no one listening.

John Quintner Consultant Physician in Rheumatology and Pain Medicine

Donna, would you be prepared to comment on the reasons for this dreadful situation?


These suggestions are great and should apply to any diagnosis. I was told by a doctor that he didn’t think I wanted to be pain free because I never said it. Guess he didnt know I should have a new Mercedes in my driveway for what I have spent finding a dx, treatment, therapies, medications, surgeries etc. For the pain I want.


I was told as I broke down crying from the intense pain to, “Calm Down or I’ll have to end this appointment!” and after I informed the office that I would no longer see that PA, my Dr stood me up, I got stuck with her & told, “I could reschedule”, when they knew leaving meant going through withdrawals! I FIRED That whole group & went to an Integrative medicine practice.


I have FM dxed 2010 after a horrific round of kidney infections and a 22 mm stone lodged in my kidney that was breaking off in crystal shard pieces and then MRSA caused septicemia contracted during surgery for the stone. I also have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome type 3. So my life is pain. I spent 8 years on pain meds to deal with the neuropathy and damage from the stone and multiple following surgeries and stents. I never took a single pill more than I was prescribed and I had a decent quality of life and could work.. Then NY passed it’s model of the WA opioid law and my doc retired almost immediately, he told me he was too old for everything to go completely electronic as that state now requires. He had brought on a partner a few years before who would be my doctor. I was told I was in good hands. Until my first appointment. He was cold and hard and nasty. He told me I shouldn’t have been on pain medication so long and that I likely had opioid induced hyperanalgesia. Ok so (ANY DOCTOR THAT BELIEVES IN THIS THEORY IS A QUACK SO RUN.) this theory states that giving someone who is in pain opiates causes more pain. See why I said run? It is a crackpot theory, unproven to the point of implausibility, and not an accepted medical standard. He refused to properly wean me off the medication, and I had no clue that physical dependence existed yet, I mistakenly thought that if taken as prescribed you can just stop taking them. Well not after 8 years. Within 36 hours I was the sickest I’ve ever been. And because I have heart and seizure history the paramedics took me to the emergency room. Before my wife could tell them the situation they put me in a detox room chained to a bed while I thought I was dying. The paramedics told them I was in withdrawal but not how it happened. 3 hours later a doctor who never gave his name tooled the restraints off and had me sit up and out a disgusting tasting film under my tongue. He didn’t even answer me as to what it was just said you’ll feel better. It was SUBOXONE! The stupid addiction therapy drug that most docs don’t have a clue how to properly use and what locked me into addiction medicine for 7 years. Suboxone is only for short term detox of those with a major opiate addiction, meaning hard core heroin addicts and people swallowing 200 MGS of oxy a day. But as I found out the hard way, Suboxone Mills are fast replacing pill Mills and is more dangerous than either heroin or methadone. First of all the longer you’re on the harder is is to stop because it is actually stronger than NARCAN. YES THE DRUG THAT REVERSES OPIATE OD DOES NOT WORK ON SUBOXONE​! The affinity​ of the bupenorphine is… Read more »

Tim Mason

The DEA gave “Doctor Shopping” a bad definition. It can and should be done or valid reasons.
Doctor shopping is good, healthy and wise.
I’ve said it before, if your relationship is compromised with a doctor, it is time to move on.
Not much different than shopping for a good restaurant.

Jan Robertson

I took a regular retirement at 61 and lived on my retirement savings account until i began with social security at 62 (not disability) because the rhuematogist said fibro could not be proven for a disability claim and he would not complete my paperwork. Disability retirement was a benefit thru my work, and i had paid for short term disability for years. So, i lost the money i should have been eligible for.
I had mononucleosis 32 years ago, then CFS, then fibro for the last17 years, and have seen him for most of that time. During that time, i have worked full and part time, and raised 4 children with a husband who traveled and no family close by.
At one point he told me”yes, you have fibro but at least it won’t end your life”. On another occasion he made a parallel between my pain and his from a tennis injury!!!
Now my husband goes to every appointment and is my advocate when he argues with me. Its been unbelieveable.

Jean Price

A great list of reasons to fire most any type of doctor!! Health care and our relationship with our doctors “should” be a partnership! When we don’t have this kind of interaction, and feel affirmed and understood, respected and like we are worthy…it’s time to reevaluate why we are seeing them and what our personal goals are! Although no one likes to search for new doctors and tell all the history and provide all the documents to help them care for us, we can face this change as something positive in our lives. And if we don’t feel comfortable with who we choose, then we keep searching until we do.

Granted it may take more than one visit to really get a feel for how the relationship is going to play out! Doctors are human, too! And they can have bad days and days where they are less responsive to our needs. Yet over the course of several visitis, it’s usually possible to tell if we are really in the right place! We would do this with childcare and even our choice of veterinarians!! Or our churches, even our bridge groups!! And our jobs! So why not our doctors?! They are just as important of a relationship, especially over time!

So it’s reasonable and acceptable to do this with our doctors too! If we are questioned about others we have seen, we can tell the truth…that we just didn’t feel,like we connected or understood each other. If this isn’t acceptable to a new doctor…ask them why!! I’m guessing they won’t have a valid answer or one that makes much sense! All in all, finding the right doctor for ourselves is just another part of advocating for ourselves! And that’s important! Always!

gerard l becker

reason #9 reaLLLLLLLLLLLLLY hit home—the existence of non-malignant, invisible, non-treatable ( in many cases ) chronic pain can be even more destructive than cancer pain– I am not demeaning the cancer sufferer, but in that case society automatically empathizes, it is visible, u will probably be treated in hospital with chemo/radiation, and mortality is thrown into question!. Such is rarely or never the case with we who are blessed (?) with cp!


I’ve even had a pain doctor scream and yell at me for forty five minutes because I my PC sent me to him! Needless to say I didn’t go back!
I seem to be in the minority on saying that until diabetics have to have monthly appointments, pill counts and piss tests it’s wrong for pain patients shouldn’t be subject to such expensive and demeaning things! I am not an addict and should not be treated as such and in most cases worse! It just continues and strengthens the belief that pain patients are addicts!

Tim Mason

Once your relationship with your physician is compromised, for whatever reason, it is time to move on. Vote with your feet but don’t burn any bridges because it is a small world out there.
Getting what you know you need takes time. IMO it is best to let it be the doctors be the one to make the decision. You can lead them but in the end the medication or treatment should be THIER idea. For example, a person comes in and asks for Valium. The patient will not get Valium. If a patient comes in and asks for a specific drug like Fentanyl, he/she gets RX for ibuprofen.
These days it is good to have been prescribed physical therapy and done the visits instead of blowing them off. It demonstrates you have tried.
Today people have to prove that they are compliant with all regimes recommended.
Keep this documentation in a handy folder to show that you have done these things.
We also must prove we are capable of managing our day to day medication without abuse and this as you know is done via pill counts and urine drug screens. Some doctors now call for random pill counts. All of this is part of the CDC guidelines and it keeps people honest. It also shows who is dishonest and those that cannot manage their medication. For example: I was a doctors visit and a man in his 50’s came in and said “I need a refill now”. “My grandson stole my whole bottle of pain medication”. Who’s fault is that?
I have moved on to younger general doctors for “run of the mill” medical treatment and I am on my third and hopefully my last pain management specialist. I am exactly where I need to be but I did not get there overnight or in two or three visits.
In a nutshell-I have allowed myself to be managed and not tried to manage the doctor. This can take up to a year or longer.

Lisa Hess

Hello Donna, I was diagnosed with Fibro myalgia in Feb 2007 after my third cervical spine surgery from a car accident in 1996. That third cerival spine surgery was an 8 hour operation and rods were placed into my neck. My body does not like foreign objects in it. My body rejected the cadaver bone in operation #2 which caused operation #3 and that is what caused the Fibro Myalgia in my body. Fibro is caused my some type of trauma to the body and in my case, it was the rods in my neck in 2006. I often get asked what type of doctor can properly diagnose FibroMyalgia? That’s an important point to mention here. What type of doctor is the best to properly diagnose Fibro? Orthopedic, GP, Rheumatologist? For me, it was a Rheumatologist. In February 2007, my spine surgeon was baffled by my symptoms so he sent me to a rheumatologist and through process of elimination of blood work for Lyme disease, Lupus and RA of which all had negative results and after testing all the pressure points with positive outcomes Fibromyalgia was my diagnosis. After my surgery, my spine was burning and was prescribed Lyrica. I had such awful side effects I had to stop taking it so Cymbalta was recommended for the Fibro. At that time I feared the newly marketed medication as I’d read nothing good about it so I waited and suffered until it was on the market long enough where I was finally reading positive things about it. I finally decided to try it and after 30 days on the medication, I found that was the answer for me. Two years later I needed an Orthopedic for my shoulder and when the doctor walked into the exam room and before he shook my hand he said to me “Do you know you have FibroMyalgia?” Just seeing me, how he knew I have no idea, but he wasn’t the only doctor who said that as soon as they looked at me. All I knew was that the Opioids I was on for Chronic Pain did nothing for the Fibro pain because FibroMyalgia is part of the Immune System that hits the nerve endings almost the same as what Diabetes does and the way the opioids work with the brain they do nothing for Fibro. I started the Cymbalta at the lowest dose of 30 mg and now I am on 90 mg, but I’d hate to think what my life would be like without it. I’ve suffered with chronic pain that started from a car accident which resulted in several spine surgeries which has left me in Chronic Pain for the rest of my life. Your doctor’s comment about the “Don’t Think About it and it will go away.” is one of the worst things doctors tell us. A lot of people contact me because they know me well and have no idea what I have to do to deal with my pain.… Read more »

I was extremely fortunate to have a doctor who did not treat me as “less than” his patients who responded to treatment and did get well. He never made me feel that I was not trying to get well, that I was seeking attention or medication and wasting his precious time, as others had. He researched and suggested yet another therapy, rheumatologist, sleep lab, acupuncturist, medication… He listened when I told him of my research and what alternative and complementary treatment I had found and was trying on my own. No matter what he thought, he never made me feel “less than” worthy of his full attention. He supported my medical leave of absence from teaching and then, when I continued to get even worse, my application for disability. He encouraged me not to give up on myself or my search for wellness. When I finally did find the help I so desperately needed he still did not roll his eyes, as so many before him had. He even made an appointment to see the complementary wellness work that helped me to discover and resolve the numerous unresolved issues in my life that were contributing to my painful, chronic, debilitating fibromyalgia. He not only gave them credit for my remission but told them if they were to help the rest of his patients as they helped me, he would be soon run out of patients. I am so grateful for Dr. V’s tenacity, patience, and encouragement. Because of him and my own desire to stop the horrid pain, I kept researching and trying various modalities until I found the unique wellness work that helped me and so many others who face all manner of illness and dis-ease. I’m forever grateful for my remission! Never settle for “less than.”


HI Donna, Well, once again, you surely hit the nail on the head!
While the bulk of my chronic pain issues have to do with my spine…I also have FM/CFS. It took 5 yrs for a former primary doc to Dx. me.
FYI…I always forget that my on/off palpitations (negative cardio workup) could be from my FM so thank you for mentioning that too! I just went through a 2 wk. ‘episode’ of them.
I surely have had docs along my journey discount FM. But the most horrendous, hurtful comments/treatment I’ve received over the years are from my pain management docs. I am astounded by their ways!
And yes…they certainly don’t like when we seem to know more than they about our conditions/our bodies.
I’ve never been treated so rudely and wrongly by doctors as I have from some of them, and still am by the one I currently see.
Thank you for this post… it’s encouraging and informative, as always from you. 🙂


This is a true story! I decided to try a Family Medicine
Integrative, Complementary Medicine doctor. The entire appointment was completely disappointing. She said so many awful, ignorant things! I think the worst one was… “You gave yourself fibromyalgia and you’re the only one who can cure it.” Ummmm…..

Jessica Agee

Oh I forgot to add I was young & didn’t know better so kept going & letting him get away with that stuff for too long. If it’s possible please fire your doctor much sooner if treated in anyway you don’t feel comfortable with. Again great advice thanks & I hope this article helps you all make the decision I didn’t. Best of luck. Jess

Jessica Agee

Well in 2007 I had a family Dr. tell me to stop eating cookies & always implying that my weight was causing my pain. This is way before any diagnosis. He started giving me this kinda acupuncture that he said the stars like Gwyneth Paltrow was doing & of course his wife. It was this suction cup thing he put on my back while I’m crying in agony that left me with 3 circle like hicky looking bruises on my back. Oh &he told me during this procedure that I need to stop crying it doesn’t hurt. He did some other things that hurt me. Leaving me undiagnosed ( at this time I had no clue about fibromyalgia ) so one day went to the ER in pain & luckily got a good dr & he found that I had some herniated disc. So went back to doctor & he sent me to PT of course that didn’t help so I asked for an MRI and he told he that I couldn’t afford to get that done..knowing that I’m on medicaid & it was covered. I honestly think he was one of those doctors that thought since I’m on assistance like medicaid that I was fat n lazy & probably hates people like me. So I told him my insurance company covers it & he finally agreed. It came back I had herniated disc & called in pain medication & sent me to a neurologist. That’s when I got my spinal fusion & now diagnosed with fibromyalgia , chronic pain (( surgery made me worse) nerve damage , osteoarthritis in my back , hips & possibly knee, & DDD plus more..most horrible experience was with him. I honestly think he caused me more pain. I looked him up a few years ago & he’s no longer in practice.. wonder why? Great article ty… Jess