Fibromyalgia, previously known as fibrositis, is a chronic condition that affects about five percent of Americans. After osteoarthritis, it is the second most common medical condition that affects the musculoskeletal system, according to the American College of Rheumatology. Characterized by widespread body pain, muscle tenderness, and sensitive ‘trigger points,” fibromyalgia is a difficult condition to diagnose because the symptoms often mimic those of other illnesses.
Fibromyalgia affects many people, and studies show that veterans of the Gulf War are more frequently diagnosed with fibromyalgia than civilians or non-Gulf War veterans. Often, people have fibromyalgia for many years before a doctor diagnoses it.
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits or benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), but getting these benefits can sometimes be challenging. To file your claim, you may want to consider the help of an experienced and skilled legal expert.
Important Facts About Fibromyalgia
There is no known cause of fibromyalgia, but researchers believe there are many factors that might contribute to the condition, including genetics, repetitive injuries, infections, and experiencing a stressful event. Here is a look at 7 important facts about this challenging condition:
- Fibromyalgia is an arthritis-related condition. Fibromyalgia is like arthritis because both can cause a great deal of pain and fatigue, and both can interfere with daily life and make managing a normal routine a challenge. However, fibromyalgia is not a true form of arthritis because it doesn’t cause inflammation or damage to the joints, muscles, or tissues.
- Fibromyalgia is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. The symptoms of fibromyalgia are sometimes similar to those of other conditions and illnesses. Because of this, a doctor has to rule out other conditions before diagnosing a patient with fibromyalgia, and without an easy test to help make that determination, many people suffering from fibromyalgia never receive the proper medical diagnosis. Because of the overlap of symptoms, millions of patients have been misdiagnosed with lupus, depression, Lyme disease, or obstructive sleep apnea. And it takes approximately five years for most patients to get an accurate fibromyalgia diagnosis, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association.
- Fibromyalgia is not “all in the head.” Fibromyalgia isn’t a new condition, and it was once considered a mental disorder. However, in the early 1800s, doctors initially described a health condition called “muscular rheumatism” with symptoms of aches, pains, tiredness, stiffness, and sleep problems. In the early 1820s, a doctor in Scotland first discussed the “tender points” of fibromyalgia. Much later, in 1981, fibromyalgia symptoms and “tender points” were confirmed in the first scientific study. Since that time, researchers have tested the pain reactions in people who suffer from fibromyalgia. Studies have shown there is more activity in relation to pain in the brains of those suffering from fibromyalgia. Additionally, people with fibromyalgia feel pain more strongly and deeply at a lower level than those who don’t have this condition. Many researchers believe that overactive nerves cause fibromyalgia pain.
- Fibromyalgia isn’t a “woman’s disease.” Even though 80 percent of people who suffer from fibromyalgia are women, it’s a common illness for men, as well. Studies show that more women suffer from fibromyalgia in part because they have more symptoms than men, and women seem to have a lower pain tolerance. Both men and women in all age groups and in all ethnic groups and cultures suffer from fibromyalgia, but the symptoms of this condition generally begin when people are in their 30s.
- Vitamin D might help. Scientists have known for many years that a deficiency of vitamin D causes bone and muscle pain, and over 50 percent of the population don’t get enough of this vitamin. There is evidence that if a patient’s level of vitamin D is too low, it may play a part in the pain of fibromyalgia. In a Mayo Clinic 2008 study, it was found that patients with chronic pain who did not have enough vitamin D required medication dosages that were twice as large as those who had a proper amount. Although doctors don’t say that vitamin D is a cure, it may help decrease the need for medication and the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
- There is no definitive test to diagnose fibromyalgia. Even though fibromyalgia is a very real condition, it often takes a long time to diagnose. Without a specific lab test, x-ray, or blood test to confirm it, doctors can sometimes mistake it for other conditions. Many doctors rely on the patient’s symptoms, as well as the guidelines set by the American College of Rheumatology to make a diagnosis. In 2010, this college published another set of guidelines that included a widespread “pain index” and a scale to assess the severity of a patient’s symptoms.
- Exercise may help. While the idea of exercising might seem less than appealing, some studies show that regular exercise can offer real relief from the pain of fibromyalgia. Even a short walk can help, and swimming is a good choice because it works body muscles without putting a lot of weight on them.
We Can Help
The attorneys at Cuddigan Law help both veterans and civilians obtain disability benefits for conditions like fibromyalgia, and they can help determine if you’re eligible for compensation. If you need help applying for Social Security Disability benefits or VA benefits, or you’ve applied and were denied benefits, call Cuddigan Law at 402-933-5405 for a free evaluation of your case.