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Is Fibromyalgia a Disability? Common Mistakes Your Doctor May Make

Someone having body pain

If you have been trying to get some answers as to whether or not your fibromyalgia diagnosis counts as a disability, you know it can be a highly frustrating experience.

Any condition that makes it impossible for you to work can be considered a disability, under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).

This act has been put in place to protect those Americans who have a significant enough medically determinable impairment that doing a regular job will be so challenging to their physical and emotional well-being that they simply can not do it and still have a decent quality of life.

But when someone has been given a fibromyalgia diagnosis, it can still sometimes be a challenge to get disability benefits for this condition.

Physical examination

The reasons for this are many, and some of them make more sense than others.

But knowing why a healthcare provider, insurance company, or the government may try to deny you disability benefits despite your fibromyalgia symptoms is going to be helpful in advocating for yourself and your condition.

What Are Disability Benefits?

It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the United States government began recognizing that there was a group of people in the country who were experiencing financial hardship due to their inability to hold regular employment.

Though there had been some protections for disabled individuals before then, it wasn’t until more stringent laws were passed that social security disability benefits became easier for disabled people to receive.

But the term “easy” may not be fully accurate, especially when it comes to certain types of disabilities.

As of this year, the most a person can receive while on long term disability benefits is $3450 per month.

And according to the Social Security Administration, the average disabled American receives $1234 per month in disability benefits.

It is also important to note that – while receiving social security disability benefits – a person is usually not allowed to make any employment income, since the social security administration has made it clear that financial compensation will be given only to disabled individuals whose physical or mental impairment is severe enough to make it impossible for them to obtain any substantial or gainful work.

Clearly, social security disability benefits have been created to protect those who need financial security and can’t work to obtain it.

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But what’s not as clear is how does one go about getting disability benefits for fibromyalgia, particularly when even doctors aren’t always clear on what constitutes fibromyalgia symptoms.

Disability Benefits Require Specific Medical Criteria

Most people who have made a disability claim do so after they have received certain medical evidence that their physical or mental impairment is great enough to make it difficult – if not impossible – to participate in regular work.

A “medically determinable impairment” is defined by the Social Security Administration as a medical condition that has been diagnosed by certain medically acceptable procedures.

These procedures can include things like laboratory work or other medical evidence that a person has the signs or symptoms of a certain disease or condition that will hinder them from engaging in basic work related activities.

Clearly, there can be different types of work, and some individuals may be able to perform certain duties that don’t require physical work, while others will be exempt from any sort of work related activities at all.

In either case, proving that you have enough of a medical or mental problem to qualify for disability benefits will often come down to this:

doctor explaining things to a patient

Does your healthcare provider have the necessary tools to be able to diagnose your fibromyalgia appropriately?

Are they able to provide the medical records needed to prove that your fibromyalgia symptoms are preventing you from being able to engage in regular employment?

Why Is My Doctor’s Diagnosis So Hard to Get?

Anyone who has spent any time battling the symptoms of fibromyalgia knows that getting a proper diagnosis for this disease can be frustrating, to say the least.

Your doctor’s opinion of fibromyalgia may not be a positive one, as many healthcare providers struggle to understand the complexities of this disease and take it seriously.

That said, your doctor’s diagnosis is going to be crucial to you receiving any sort of disability benefits, so finding a doctor who can understand the severity of your symptoms is very important.

One of the challenges for even the most well-intentioned physician is that there is still no specific diagnostic testing that can be done on a patient to prove that the symptoms they are experiencing are related to fibromyalgia disease.

There are certain lab tests that can rule out things that are similar to fibromyalgia – such as a blood test for rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease – but fibromyalgia itself does not have the testing options as these other musculoskeletal systems and connective tissue diseases such as these.

Another challenge with diagnosing fibromyalgia correctly is that there is still no cure for this disease.

With no known cure, it is hard for some healthcare providers to see it as the seriously debilitating disorder that it is.

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How Can I Help My Doctor Advocate for Me?

If you’ve tried multiple times to get your medical records to reflect the fact that your fibromyalgia symptoms warrant you receiving disability benefits, you may have been met with little to no help from your primary caregiver.

Remember, living with fibromyalgia takes a great deal of patience and fortitude.

Luckily, though, there are a few things you can do to help your situation and prove to your doctor that your symptoms really do warrant a fibromyalgia diagnosis.

First, talk to your doctor about your widespread pain.

Widespread pain is one of the first and most obvious signs of fibromyalgia.

Anyone who experiences pain that does not seem to be localized to one particular area on their body – or related to an injury or illness – can usually get their physician to agree that the pain they are experiencing is indeed widespread and notate that in their permanent medical records.

Even though there is no diagnostic testing for fibromyalgia, there are a few tests that your physician can perform on you to clarify where you are experiencing pain and how to define it.

One such test is the widespread pain index.

When doing this test, your physician should locate the different areas on your body that are known as the trigger points or pain points where most fibromyalgia sufferers will experience the most pain.

If your doctor knows how to do this test correctly, it can be a huge help in determining whether or not your pain is related to a fibromyalgia flare up or something else.

Your doctor may also be willing to perform a residual functional capacity test that will test your cognitive functioning and provide an assessment of your ability to perform physical work as well as perform mental work as well.

Next, talk to your doctor about other symptoms you may be experiencing.

Other than chronic pain, most people who are suffering from fibromyalgia will have a host of other complications as well, some with more severe symptoms than others, depending on the individual and their own situation.

Some of the most common complaints amongst this group are things such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue or severe fatigue, joint pain, difficulty concentrating, and sleep problems.

support group or community

Again, these won’t necessarily be the same for all fibromyalgia sufferers. But if you can present to your physician what your most common severe symptoms are and any other medical conditions you may be experiencing, he or she can get a better idea of the intensity of your symptoms and begin to see a pattern that would be hard to not diagnose fibromyalgia as the most obvious cause of all your discomfort.

Where Else Can I Turn for Fibromyalgia Help?

Living with fibromyalgia is a constant struggle and trying to secure disability benefits for fibromyalgia is a struggle as well

There is still so little known about this disease, what causes it and how to treat it.

Being told that “it’s all in your head” is something most fibromyalgia sufferers have heard at least once, and that type of attitude is more common than we’d like to think.

But here’s the good news…

Though obtaining disability benefits for fibromyalgia may be a challenge, here at Native Formulas we can help.

Through our blogs, online support network, and testimonials, you will find a community of like-minded individuals who have all known the struggle that living with fibromyalgia can cause.

From chronic pain to chronic frustration, fibromyalgia is not a disease anyone should be trying to tackle alone.

Become a part of our growing community and find out how you can learn to survive and thrive, despite your fibromyalgia disability.

Fibromyalgia is not a pleasant ailment to live with. But there are people out there who can make it better…once you reach out and let them in.

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