Fibromyalgia – Disability or Simple Nuisance?

Fibromyalgia is a common musculoskeletal condition that is characterized by chronic and widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in particular areas.

Some symptoms of this condition include anxiety or depression, decreased pain threshold, tender parts of the body, incapacitating fatigue, and widespread pain.

As with other medical conditions, several of these symptoms must be present in order to diagnose someone with fibromyalgia.

Because of the severity of pain fibromyalgia can cause, some wonder if it is more than a mere medical condition and if it qualifies as a disability.

This would mainly matter when you are applying for disability benefits through the Social Security Association or from your employer.

So this article will answer the question people wonder: does fibromyalgia qualify as a disorder? Or is it simply a medical condition?

Why Is It Difficult to Receive Benefits?

With fibromyalgia, the symptoms are self-reported. The SSA must do their best to make sure only those who are genuinely disabled receive aid instead of someone who is simply making up and reporting symptoms.

If you are trying to apply for disability benefits, one of the best things you can do is make sure you receive an official diagnosis as well as treatment from a rheumatologist.

This will provide strong evidence of your condition and will make it all the more likely that you will receive the disability benefits you are applying for!

Social Security’s View of Fibromyalgia as A Disability

In 2012, Social Security published a ruling that discussed how those reviewing each case should judge whether or not fibromyalgia qualifies as a “medically determinable impairment.”

While citing diagnostic criteria from the American College of Rheumatology, the SSA determined that there must be evidence of widespread chronic pain over at least three months and objective tests, like a laboratory test, have ruled out any other condition it could possibly by.

The SSA also determined that one of the following factors must be present:

  • Positive tender points are in at least 11 tested areas that are above and below the waist, as well as on both sides of the body
  • Repeated occurrence of at least 6 fibromyalgia symptoms; this especially includes fatigue, cognitive and memory issues, waking up tired, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and anxiety

Even once you show these symptoms above, you must still demonstrate that you can’t perform tasks for work.

Getting Disability Leave from Work

If your fibromyalgia is preventing you from working, you should also make sure to check with your employer and see what can be done about receiving either long term or short term disability leave.

One of the first things you should do in this scenario are to check with your Human Resources department and see what the company’s policy is for short term or long term leave.

This will let you know if you qualify for disability leave in your company based on your symptoms.

The second thing you should do for either Social Security or disability leave from your place of employment.

This is making sure both you and your doctor are taking meticulous notes about your symptoms and your pain levels. This will provide help provide evidence that your pain levels do interfere with your work.

 Is Fibromyalgia a Disability

Wait, Can People with Fibromyalgia Work?

Yes, they can! However, because of the pain, fatigue, and stiffness that is often associated with fibromyalgia, it can be difficult to work.

Depending on how severe your symptoms are as well as if you do want or can take a break from work, you may want to see if your workplace can make some modifications to fit you.

These modifications include things such as:

  • Asking for rest days
  • Bringing a cot to sleep during lunch
  • Taking work home if you are too fatigued to work in the workplace
  • Receiving written instructions for work for those who have memory issues
  • Allowing breaks during work
  • Reminding employee of important deadlines
  • Allowing flexible work hours

These are likely to be the best things you can ask from your employee as they are a bit easier for them to comply with.

Other things you can ask for based on what you believe would help the best, such as minimal distractions in your particular work environment or different lighting so you won’t be having a migraine.

Again, this is all based on your personal pain levels and what you believe would help ease your symptoms.

If you are keeping track of your symptoms and pain levels, you can discuss with your doctor which route would be the best medically for you to take: short term or long term leave from working, requesting accommodations in the workplace from your employer, and if you should apply for disability benefits from the SSA.

So, Is Fibromyalgia a Disability?

In short: yes. Disabilities are generally defined as something that constantly interferes with your day-to-day life. This means that this disorder that includes a fair amount of pain would more than qualify.

If you are trying to do something where you need to be officially recognized as having a disability, you can still count as being disabled with fibromyalgia.

This often just requires keeping track of your pain levels and all of your symptoms, as well as how long they last. Typically, you must display several symptoms that last over a period of several months.

This means that you can qualify as disabled if you have had chronic pain for several months and have a lot of pain areas or tender spots. This can apply to many other things past just fibromyalgia as well.

Hopefully, this has answered your questions in regards to fibromyalgia and if it does or does not qualify as disability!

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