Fibromyalgia (fibro for short) is a painful and frustrating condition for many people. Even though they ache all over and feel exhausted, their doctors often can’t find anything wrong with them. Medical tests are normal, yet they have a constant dull ache in their muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Symptoms of fibro may start after an emotional or physical trauma, but oftentimes no event triggers this complex pain disorder.
For people with severe symptoms, fibromyalgia — also called fibromyosis or myofacial pain disorder — is very debilitating. Sufferers may find it difficult to continue their normal daily activities. If they are no longer able to perform their job they may apply for Social Security disability benefits.
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, a person must have an impairment that medical evidence–including signs, symptoms, examinations, and tests–confirms. Because the causes of fibro are not fully understood and the symptoms vary from individual to individual, the Social Security examiner may not classify it as a disabling condition. In fact, unlike conditions such as diabetes or lupus, Social Security does not specify at what point fibromyalgia becomes disabling.
Before applying for Social Security disability benefits, a person should know what is in his or her medical records. This is especially true for people with fibro because the condition is not yet widely recognized as disabling and the Social Security examiner will look for specific evidence. Social Security often treats it as a chronic fatigue disorder, so you may want to be familiar with that condition as well.
Fibromyalgia records should ideally include a diagnosis by a rheumatologist or orthopedist, because diagnosis from a specialist carries more weight than a diagnosis from an internist or primary care physician. Because the Social Security listing of impairments does not include fibro, pairing the diagnosis of fibro with another condition, such as degenerative disc disease or arthritis, may help you have multiple ways to objectively prove your case.
Social Security provides disability benefits to people who cannot work because of severe impairments that are medically documented. To qualify for benefits, medical records must clearly document the applicant has a decreased residual functioning capacity because of their condition. That reduced capacity, or ability to do less than before, can demonstrate that you can no longer work.
The growing recognition among medical specialists that fibromyalgia is a specific disease with a definitive diagnosis may make it easier to qualify for disability benefits in the future. For now, people with fibro who are no longer able to work must take extra steps to prove their disability. With a diagnosis by a qualified specialist and documentation of the impact of the disorder on the person’s ability to work, a person who suffers from severe fibromyalgia could get Social Security disability benefits.