Attitudes Toward and Management of Fibromyalgia: A National Survey of Canadian Rheumatologists and Critical Appraisal of Guidelines

J Clin Rheumatol. 2018 Aug;24(5):243-249. doi: 10.1097/RHU.0000000000000679.


Background: Canadian rheumatologists' attitudes toward and management of fibromyalgia remain uncertain.

Objective: The aim of this study was to explore management strategies and attitudes of Canadian rheumatologists toward fibromyalgia and concordance with guideline recommendations.

Methods: We administered a 17-item cross-sectional survey to Canadian rheumatologists and explored the concordance between respondents' management practices with the 2012 Canadian Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of fibromyalgia.

Results: Among 331 Canadian rheumatologists who were approached, 140 returned the survey for a 42% response rate. The majority felt that fibromyalgia was a useful clinical diagnosis (110/138 [80%]) but was divided as to whether fibromyalgia was objectively defined (75/138 [54%]) or a psychosocial condition (42/138 [30%]) or could result in an inability to work (37/138 [27%]). Contrary to guideline recommendations, most (82/134 [61%]) endorsed that tender points were useful for diagnosis. Half endorsed potentially refusing consultations with fibromyalgia patients, and only 42% (59/139) agreed that there were effective therapies for this syndrome. Consistent with the guideline, most respondents managed fibromyalgia with education, exercise therapy, antidepressants, and nonnarcotic analgesics (≥89% for all); however, fewer than half agreed that any of these modalities were effective (endorsement ranged from 9% to 47%). Assessment of the 2012 guideline revealed a number of important limitations.

Conclusions: Canadian rheumatologists largely do not provide primary care for fibromyalgia. Most adhere to guideline recommendations for management of fibromyalgia, but few endorse these interventions as effective. Further research, including updating of the 2012 Canadian Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of fibromyalgia, is required to inform this disconnect.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Canada
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease Management
  • Fibromyalgia / therapy*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Rheumatologists* / psychology
  • Rheumatologists* / statistics & numerical data
  • Rheumatology* / methods
  • Rheumatology* / standards