Our office has been seeing a great increase in the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia in the last few years. Generally, people diagnosed with Fibromyalgia are suffering from wide spread pain all over the body. Some people will tell me that it is affecting their joints, while others will say it is their muscles or tendons. The pain has usually been affecting the person for years and has progressed as the years have gone by. The condition is usually diagnosed by a rheumatologist and may take up to a year for confirmation of the diagnosis.
What is very common in these cases is that test results cannot explain the person’s pain. The most common way for this condition to be diagnosed at the present time is by positive tender points upon physical examination. Basically, what that means is that the person experiences pain when a physician applies pressure to the effected area. What I often find is that someone suffering from Fibromyalgia may also be experiencing sleep problems, severe fatigue, headaches, memory problems or trouble understanding, depression and/or anxiety, and at times symptoms that are similar to irritable bowel syndrome (pain or cramps in the abdomen, diarrhea, constipation).
If you are suffering from Fibromyalgia, it is very important that you see a rheumatologist that is knowledgeable in treating Fibromyalgia patients. You will often be referred to a mental health specialist, if you are not already in treatment. I encourage my clients to take full advantage of the mental health treatment as this is a very important aspect of your claim. I often say “Have you ever seen a happy disabled person?” Your whole life is turned upside down and inside out and it becomes very important that you learn to live with the pain. A licensed psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist who is familiar with Fibromyalgia can teach ways to the Fibromyalgia patient to learn to live with the pain. Granted there are no cures and you are certainly will not be functioning at the level you once were, however, learning how to live within your limitations has greatly helped people with this diagnosis to live a fuller life.
As pain is such a significant symptom of this disease, it is extremely important that your physician know the intensity and persistence of your pain. Intensity means the level of pain that you feel. Some days you may have a dull ache, where as other days it may be a sharp shooting pain. Some days there may be no pain at all, where as other days you may not be able to get out of bed because of the pain. I often see that changes in the weather and activity effect the level of pain. It is extremely important to document your pain levels and intensity in your medical records. It is especially important in this type of claim as subjective evidence, i.e. your pain levels, are used to determine whether or not the condition is severe. In order to establish disability the limitations imposed by the Fibromyalgia must prevent you from doing your past work and any other work that exists in our national economy on a full-time basis.
As this is a very complicated diagnosis requiring a great deal of subjective medical evidence. Please do not go in front of a Judge without an attorney. If you would like to discuss your diagnosis or pain further as it relates to a disability claim, please give me a call at 1-800-248-1729.
Disclaimer: These pages are only observations from my point of view of some of the factors that are present in the diagnosis. I am not a doctor, I am a lawyer and I am only providing observations of various signs and symptoms that I have seen during my practice and/or the signs and symptoms that I evaluate when taking a client in front of an Administrative Law Judge.