Fibromyalgia or fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a condition that causes sufferers to experience widespread and chronic pain. And, it’s estimated that about 700,000 Canadians live with FMS. There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, so the various treatments for fibromyalgia focus on reducing pain and other symptoms, and improving coping skills and self-management.
In addition to widespread pain, fibromyalgia may also result in the following symptoms:
- Heightened sensitivity to pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Difficulty sleeping
- Stiffness in muscles
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Cognitive problems, particularly with memory and concentration
Also, it is not unusual for victims of fibromyalgia to develop psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.
Fibromyalgia is often triggered by a stressful physical or emotional event, such as an injury, infection, an operation or the death of a family member. The specific cause of fibromyalgia is unclear, but it’s generally believed that it’s connected to abnormal levels in certain chemicals in the brain, as well as changes in the way pain messages are processed by the central nervous system, including the brain and nerves.
A person may be diagnosed with fibromyalgia if: 1) they have severe pain in three to six different areas of their body; 2) their symptoms remain at a similar level for three or more months; and 3) medical assessment has found no other reasons for the symptoms.
What makes the situation even more difficult for people with FMS is the fact that there are insufficient health care services available for this condition. Fibromyalgia is one of the most unsupported conditions in Canada, in terms of healthcare needs. The lack of services for people with FMS means that the condition is often late-diagnosed and poorly managed, which results in longer and more severe disability. In contrast with the generally high level of care when someone suffers from a heart condition, diabetes or another prevalent ailment, fibromyalgia symptoms are all-too-often not taken seriously and the level of care depends on the patient’s luck in finding a compassionate and informed family physician.
When you learn about or experience fibromyalgia symptoms, such as chronic pain, headaches and extreme fatigue, it’s easy to understand how this condition can be debilitating and make it challenging, if not impossible, to effectively perform a job. And, without treatment a sufferer may experience an increasing number of symptoms over time, which can create even more anxiety and difficulty coping.
Unfortunately, fibromyalgia symptoms are difficult to measure objectively in a medical test, which means that disability insurers are more likely to challenge a fibromyalgia disability claim, than claims for well-understood and objectively measurable ailments. In order to be eligible for disability benefits under your disability plan, you need to be able to show that your symptoms prevent you from performing the essential tasks of your normal work. After two years, eligibility depends on proving that symptoms prevent you from performing any work for which you are suited by way of education, training or experience.
Making a successful fibromyalgia disability claim requires that you include medical reports and convincing medical opinion from your doctor outlining how your symptoms prevent you from performing the essential and key tasks in your job. If you suffer from fibromyalgia or believe you may be suffering from fibromyalgia, the most important step is to seek medical care. And, if your doctor is not taking your symptoms seriously, get a second opinion. Don’t let others, including medical professionals, dismiss the severity of your symptoms.
When you report symptoms common to fibromyalgia, your doctor will typically try to rule out other conditions before arriving at a diagnosis and recommending treatment options. And, you need to go through the process of having your symptoms diagnosed and documented, in order to generate the medical evidence that substantiates your claim for disability benefits. If you don’t have coverage for long-term disability (LTD) benefits through your employer or another plan, and have been working for 4 of the past 6 years, you can apply for disability benefits under the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).
Fibromyalgia is, in many respects, an invisible condition, but this does not in any way diminish the severity of your symptoms or the legitimacy of your disability claim. If your fibromyalgia disability claim was denied or unfairly terminated, get strong representation from an experienced disability claims lawyers at Injury Lawyers of Ontario (ILO). Let us help you get the benefits you need and deserve.