Fibromyalgia is a Very Real Disabling Condition

Fibromyalgia is a very complex chronic pain disorder that affects an estimated 10 million individuals in the United States and approximately three to six percent of the world population.  For those suffering from fibromyalgia, the disease causes widespread pain and tenderness to touch and can affect the entire body.  Fibromyalgia symptoms can include stiffness, pain, fatigue, tiredness, depression/anxiety, memory, sleep issues, concentration, and headaches including at times migraines.  Fibromyalgia symptoms can be very severe and debilitating affecting a persons’ work, social and daily life.

The criteria, established by the American College of Rheumatology in 1990, contains a history of widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for the duration of three months or more and pain in at least 11 of the 18 designated tender points when pressure is applied.  In 2000, the American College of Rheumatology ceased using the criteria of tender points and instead focused on pain being widespread and accompanied by symptoms such as sleep problems, problems with thinking and fatigue.  Unfortunately, those who suffer with fibromyalgia typically have normal results with conventional testing. A physician knowledgeable about the disease, such as a rheumatologist, is necessary to make the diagnosis in part by ruling out other causes.

The National Fibromyalgia Institute (NFI) website states that fibromyalgia is marked by profound, chronic, and widespread pain that can migrate to all parts of the body in varying intensities.  The pain can be described as stabbing, shooting, muscle aching, throbbing and twitching.  Neurologists have noted that patients with this disease can experience numbness and tingling, aggravated by stress, weather and movements.

Due to the statistics of those affected around the world, fibromyalgia has become a global health issue that many physicians and health care providers are not knowledge about nor prepared to treat.  Recent research suggests a strong genetic basis for fibromyalgia.  Increasingly, recent studies have been focused on the central nervous system as the underlying problem of fibromyalgia; it is believed that patients with the condition have generalized disturbance in pain processing and an amplified response to stimuli that would not ordinarily be painful in healthy individuals.  While men can have fibromyalgia, it is most prevalent in women.

Although there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and improving function.  Medications like Lyrica, Cymbalta and Savella have been approved to help with pain control.  Non-pharmacological therapies of aerobic exercise, self-management, massage therapy, myofascial release, acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbal supplements, yoga and cognitive-behavioral therapy have demonstrated benefits with fibromyalgia symptoms. The BMJ Journal annals of the rheumatic diseases reported in 2017 that a two-month acupuncture treatment has proven to provide global improvement in the health status of the fibromyalgia patients who are refractory/intolerant to pharmacologic therapy and the strongest signs are represented by the reduction in tender points.

Most people with fibromyalgia are able to continue to work but may require some changes in the work place: such as, cutting down the hours you work, switch to a less demanding job, or adapt a current job.  An occupational therapist may help you find a more efficient and comfortable work station to help do your job.

If your fibromyalgia becomes too intense and your physician takes you off of work, you may qualify for disability benefits from your disability insurance coverage provided through your employer. If you suffer from the symptoms of fibromyalgia and have been terminated or denied a disability claim from your insurance company, contact the O’Ryan Law Firm to discuss your options.  We will pursue and fight for the benefits you are entitled to under the terms of your disability policy.