Fibromyalgia can make life difficult. You wake up tired and in pain, and it becomes worse as the day progresses. The exhaustion and pain make it difficult to get through the day. Finally, you can go back to bed, but the condition keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is appropriate if all of the following are true:
- A history of widespread pain that lasts longer than three months;
- Pain is present in at least 11 of 18 tender points; and
- The pain cannot be attributed to another condition or illness with similar symptoms.
Other symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Chronic widespread pain
- Sleep disturbances
- Tingling or numbness of the skin
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle stiffness
- Muscle twitching
- Nerve pain
- Difficulty with memory or concentration
In 2012, Social Security Ruling made fibromyalgia a medically determinable impairment (MDI). However, in order to be approved for SSDI benefits for fibromyalgia, your fibromyalgia should be diagnosed by a rheumatologist, not your family doctor. The doctor must rule out any other possible causes of your symptoms, including osteoarthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. You must follow the doctor’s treatment plan and exhibit certain symptoms. You must have chronic widespread pain (including pain in your back, neck, or chest), and one of the following:
- Pain in at least 11 of the 18 possible tender point areas of the body. The pain must affect both sides of the body and be present both above and below the waist. Or,
- At least six fibromyalgia symptoms, including: fatigue, cognitive or memory problems, waking up unrested, depression, anxiety, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Again, other causes must be ruled out.
The SSA will want medical documentation that your symptoms have lasted at least 12 months. They also will need information about any other medical conditions you may have, including depression or anxiety. It is very common for a person with fibromyalgia to have other medical conditions at the same time, so the SSA will consider all your medical conditions together.
The SSA also may seek information from non-medical sources. They may call your neighbors, family members, or other people you see regularly to find out how fibromyalgia affects your everyday life.
If your fibromyalgia does not fit SSA’s definition for an MDI, don’t give up. If your impairment makes it impossible for you to hold a job for pay, you still may qualify for SSDI under the SSA’s 5-step disability determination process. You can read about the process in our article, “What Is the New England SSA Disability Five-Step Process All About?”
The SSDI application process can be overwhelming. Help is available. Request a free copy of Boston disability attorney John Keefe’s book, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability, or contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.