A women experiencing head ache.

Can you get disability for Fibromyalgia? You may qualify for disability benefits if you suffer from Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that causes rather vague symptoms like pain throughout the body and chronic fatigue, so it often creates problems with simple tasks, everyday activities, and working. If you’re suffering from fibromyalgia, you may need information on how to get disability for fibromyalgia, depending on your medical diagnosis and your inability to work due to your condition.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

In medical terms, fibromyalgia is defined as a chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain, chronic fatigue, joint and muscle stiffness, insomnia, and neurological problems. The condition causes chronic pain and tenderness throughout the body, as well as problems with memory, mood, and sleep. Medical researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies pain throughout the body by affecting the way the brain and spinal cord process pain signals.

Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that’s often difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are related to so many other illnesses and diseases. It’s common for fibromyalgia to co-exist with other medical conditions including anxiety and depression, cystitis or painful bladder; irritable bowel syndrome, joint disorders, migraines and other types of tension headaches, and postural tachycardia syndrome. All of these conditions are linked to pain, so the possibility of a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is often overlooked.

While fibromyalgia is usually difficult to diagnose, research does show that the risk factors for fibromyalgia are linked to factors such as sex, family history, and similar disorders that cause chronic long-term pain. Fibromyalgia is diagnosed much more often in women than in men, and you are more likely to develop the condition if a parent or sibling also has the condition. Since the main symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic pain, people who have other chronic pain conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus are more likely to develop fibromyalgia.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

In some cases, symptoms of fibromyalgia begin after a major event, such as an infection somewhere in the body, a surgical procedure, physical trauma, or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms may gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event. The primary symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Widespread pain that lasts for at least 3 months
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Stiffness in joints and muscles
  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders
  • Cognitive problems with concentration, focus, and memory
  • Neurological problems like depression and mood swings

Impact on Daily Life and Long-Term Effects

Chronic pain, fatigue, and poor sleep quality associated with fibromyalgia create a variety of problems that impact a person’s daily life. These conditions can interfere with basic skills and tasks, like making decisions, remembering to pay the bills, and holding down a job. Although fibromyalgia is recognized as a medical condition that causes serious impairments, getting a disability claim approved for fibromyalgia can be difficult without a disability lawyer.

Disability Evaluation Process in Illinois

In Illinois, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does recognize fibromyalgia, also known as Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS), as a qualifying medical condition. However, the SSA evaluates each case individually to determine if the claimant is eligible for disability benefits, either through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). How you get disability for fibromyalgia in Illinois depends on important information found in your medical records and your ability to perform work-related activities on a regular basis.

Whether you apply for SSDI or SSI benefits in Illinois, you can apply in person, online, or by phone, but you may want to work with a Social Security disability attorney who has experience with state disability claims and is familiar with the disability process from start to finish. The SSA gives you the right to legal representation by an attorney.

You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you develop the disability because the SSA states that there is a 5-month waiting period to receive benefits, but it may take up to 7 months to receive your first payment. The SSA will review your application to make sure you meet the basic requirements, then forward your case to the Illinois Disability Determination Services Office, the state agency that completes the initial disability determination decision based on your medical reports.

How Is Fibromyalgia Evaluated for Disability?

To evaluate a fibromyalgia disability, you need medical evidence showing a confirmed diagnosis from a licensed physician or a rheumatologist. In many cases, a team of doctors who work with the SSA will evaluate your impairments. Physical impairments are measured by your ability to balance, bend, or crawl, lift and carry heavy objects, maintain attendance and punctuality at work, and walk, sit, and stand during an 8-hour work day. A neurologist may evaluate your mental impairments that impact your concentration, memory, and speech.

Establishing Disability for Fibromyalgia in Illinois

Does fibromyalgia qualify for disability? When reviewing your disability case, the SSA will make the determination on whether you get disability for fibromyalgia based on the following requirements:

  • Symptoms of pain in your joints, muscles, and surrounding tissues that are severe and present for at least 3 months
  • Six or more ongoing signs or symptoms of fibromyalgia
  • Documented medical evidence that rules out other medical conditions
  • Written statements by you and other people about your physical or mental restrictions to perform daily activities
  • Written statements from your doctor and your employer about your inability to perform work

To qualify for fibromyalgia disability benefits, you must prove a disability based on the SSA’s Bluebook List of Impairments. To collect SSDI benefits for fibromyalgia, you must present all required medical evidence and show that your impairments have lasted or are expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

Common Challenges and Misconceptions

There is still a lot that is not known about fibromyalgia, so there are many challenges and misconceptions about the condition exist.

The #1 most common misconception about fibromyalgia is “the disorder is not real.” While most pain can be traced to specific causes and locations in the body, fibromyalgia pain is widespread throughout the body because the pain originates within the brain. The untraceable nature of this pain gives way to speculation regarding its legitimacy.

The #2 most common misconception about fibromyalgia is “you’re just tired.” Fibromyalgia creates long-term, debilitating pain that’s much more than just feeling tired. Some people with fibromyalgia don’t have the strength to get out of bed, cook or eat a meal, or perform simple everyday tasks.

The #3 most common misconception about fibromyalgia is “you should avoid exercise.” According to the American College of Rheumatology, exercise is the single most effective treatment for fibromyalgia patients. Aerobic exercises like walking biking, and swimming, and the use of exercise bands, machines, and weights have been shown to improve symptoms, physical stamina, sleep problems, and mood.

While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, and medications don’t work well for most people, there is a wide range of options available for helpful treatments.

Myths About Fibromyalgia and Disability Benefits

Many people think that fibromyalgia is a “catchall” diagnosis, but fibromyalgia has specific diagnostic criteria developed by the American College of Rheumatology (ARC), and qualifies as a disability with documented proof. People also think you can take a pill to eliminate fibromyalgia symptoms, but drug treatments are not proven to work well for fibromyalgia patients. Medical evidence shows that medications only work in one out of four patients, and symptoms only diminish, they do not disappear.

How a Disability Attorney Can Assist With the Application Process

Although fibromyalgia is listed as a valid medical condition, receiving Social Security disability for fibromyalgia is often difficult due to symptoms that mimic many other conditions. Many applications are denied because of errors or omissions in the claimant’s information, lack of substantial medical evidence, and untimely claims.

If you have concerns regarding whether you can get disability for fibromyalgia, it’s best to work with a Social Security disability lawyer who can file your claim and oversee your case. A lawyer can help you understand how to get disability for fibromyalgia. The SSA allows legal representation for disability cases, so why not take advantage of a lawyer who can help you get approved for benefits? Your lawyer can help you with your disability claim by completing the following requirements:

  • Filling out the necessary paperwork for the SSA
  • Gathering important medical records from hospitals and doctors
  • Corresponding with the SSA about concerns and questions
  • Submitting a timely disability claim within the statute of limitations
  • Filing an appeal, if the SSA denies your claim
  • Going with you to scheduled appeal hearings or court hearings

If you’re dealing with fibromyalgia, handling your own disability claim will likely be difficult. Since fibromyalgia is marked by widespread pain, chronic fatigue, difficult movements, insomnia and sleep disorders, and cognitive dysfunctions, trying to file your own disability claim with the SSA may cause mistakes that result in a denied claim.