The Trouble With Proving Fibromyalgia to the SSA
Fibromyalgia syndrome is an often extremely painful condition that is notoriously difficult to diagnosis. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, it is defined as a “collection of signs, symptoms, and medical problems” that do not have an attributed cause. Symptoms of fibromyalgia include chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, balance and coordination problems, recurring migraines and fatigue. Fibromyalgia is more often seen in women, estimated at some 80% of fibromyalgia cases, though this is certainly not always the case.
What makes fibromyalgia so difficult to pin down is that there is currently no one test to definitively diagnose the disorder. A process of elimination is used instead, with patients undergoing tests to cross off other possible conditions. Many people thus incorrectly see fibromyalgia as a catchall when that is not the case as there are specific requirements that must be met prior to receiving a diagnosis. To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a patient must show widespread pain in all four body quadrants for at least three months and tenderness in at least 11 of 18 points when pressure is applied.
Because of the debilitating effect of fibromyalgia, many sufferers are unable to continue working and disability benefits may be an option for them. Typically, to obtain disability benefits, the applicant must have a written diagnosis of fibromyalgia from a medical doctor, often times a rheumatologist given that the SSA gives these doctors’ opinions more weight when it comes to the condition. The visit to the doctor should include a physical and neurological exam including a test of trigger points. Besides the diagnosis, the patient will have to supply records, a list of all treating physicians, detailed descriptions of symptoms, attempted treatments and limitations the disorder has caused.
Your own testimony is crucial when the decision is made to award disability benefits for fibromyalgia. The list of possible physical and mental limitations associated with fibromyalgia is endless and your personal description of the syndrome becomes critical given how subjective many of the symptoms are. It is very important that your testimony comes across to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) as credible. You may also want to have someone who knows you well and understands the impact the disorder has had on your life testify as to what you have been going through.
If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits due to fibromyalgia or have questions, call The Disability Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.