I believe I’m suffering from fibromyalgia. What should I know about this condition, and can I get disability benefits?

Formerly known as fibrositis, fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic condition that affects about five percent of the U.S. population. However, because the symptoms of FM vary by individual, it’s a difficult condition to diagnose. The statistics for people suffering from FM are often estimates rather than exact numbers.

While FM is a condition that affects many people, studies show that veterans of the Gulf War are more frequently diagnosed with FM than civilians or non-Gulf War veterans. Additionally, FM is more common in women and characterized by widespread pain Fibromyalgia Information on a Clipboard Surrounded by Medicationin the body’s ligaments and muscles. Very often, people who suffer from FM have had the condition for years before their doctor makes the diagnosis.  

According to the American College of Rheumatology, FM is the second most common medical condition that affects the musculoskeletal system (after osteoarthritis). Those with FM not only experience muscle tenderness and pain, they often have “trigger points” that are painful to the touch or with pressure. These trigger points are usually found on the shoulders, neck, arms, hips, and back. Interestingly, those suffering from FM find these trigger spots especially sensitive, but other similar spots on their body are not sensitive. Additionally, people who suffer from other chronic pain conditions such as arthritis don’t find that pressure on those trigger spots is painful.

If you suffer from FM, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits or benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). To navigate the appeal process to receive benefits for FM, you may want a legal expert to help with your claim

The Causes of Fibromyalgia

There is no known cause of FM; however, most researchers believe FM is a result of a combination of many types of stressors—not just caused by a single event. Additionally, there are some known factors believed to contribute to or be associated with the development of this condition. Here is a brief look at some factors connected with FM:

  • Genetics. While there is no direct genetic link between people who suffer FM—the condition is not passed from parent to child—studies show that people who develop FM are likely to have a family member with this condition. FM has been shown to run in families, especially in mothers and daughters. Thus, it’s possible that heredity is a factor in developing FM.
  • A stressful event. Some studies suggest that those people who have experienced physical or emotional trauma or abuse are more likely to suffer from FM.
  • Chronic pain from another condition. FM has been linked with other illnesses. The chronic pain of arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and other autoimmune diseases can trigger or factor into the development of FM.
  • Infection. Certain infections can bring about FM. Hepatitis C, the Epstein Barr virus, and other infections are linked to FM.
  • Repetitive injuries. If you overuse your hands to perform a task repeatedly, such as working with the same tool throughout the day, typing, or writing, you may suffer from Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). This can be a debilitating condition that has been linked to fibromyalgia.
  • Age. While it’s possible for children to develop fibromyalgia, the ages of most who develop this condition range from 20 – 60 years old. Most people develop symptoms during middle age.
  • Diet. It’s thought that certain foods may exacerbate the symptoms of FM, including caffeine, dairy, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, fried foods, salty foods, and alcohol.

Researchers do seem to agree that in those who suffer from FM, the brain and spinal cord seem to process pain sensations abnormally. The threshold for pain may be lower, and pain is felt more intensely because the abnormalities in the central nervous system amplify the pain.

We Can Help

FM isn’t a new disease, but only recently have researchers and doctors understood and accepted it. In the past, FM wasn’t always considered a real condition, and some believed it was “all in the head.” However, a 1981 scientific study confirmed FM symptoms and the associated trigger points. Since that time, more testing has been performed on the pain reactions in people with FM.

If you’re a civilian or a veteran and suffer from fibromyalgia and are unable to work, you may be eligible for Social Security or VA disability benefits. Or if you’ve applied and were denied benefits, call Cuddigan Law at (402) 933-5405. We’ll schedule an appointment to discuss your eligibility for compensation.

 

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska