Fibromyalgia – Why proper diagnosis is crucial to the success of chronic pain cases.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a type of nerve pain or neuropathic pain caused by a dysfunction of the nervous system, which leads to a constellation of characteristic symptoms and signs in sufferers. The hallmark symptom of fibromyalgia is widespread body pain. In association with this, patients will often exhibit a very marked sense of fatigue along with sleep and cognitive disturbances.
Fibromyalgia is not uncommon, research suggests that as many as 1 in 20 people may be affected to some degree; the number of legal cases involving fibromyalgia is on the increase too. There is a certain amount of difficulty in fibromyalgia cases for solicitors because, although fibromyalgia is accepted as a medical condition, it is well known that the diagnosis is susceptible to clinical misuse due to the subjectivity and complexity of its symptoms.
What is a proper diagnosis and why is it crucial to the success of chronic pain cases?
A thorough investigation by a skilled pain medicine specialist will seek first and foremost to find the underlying cause of the patient’s current condition. There will almost always be an incident in the patient’s past that can be pinpointed: a physical trauma (car accidents are common), psychological trauma, or infectious disease contracted in their past could all be significant triggers. Certain types of viral illnesses are also associated with fibromyalgia.
An expert in Pain Medicine will follow a rigorous process to build a complete picture of the patient. He or she will investigate the patient’s medical history in detail. The expert will ensure that detailed questionnaires have been completed by the patient, in the correct settings (usually at home and free from pressure) and will use these to develop the patient’s medical history. The final stage of a proper diagnosis would be the use of a diagnostic tool, specifically the ACR (American College of Rheumatology) diagnostic criteria for a diagnosis. It is too often the case that patients have been given a diagnosis of fibromyalgia without the use of this tool.
In court, an expert in pain medicine, acting as an expert witness will have covered all the avenues required to unequivocally show that a diagnosis of fibromyalgia has been correctly made. He or she will be able to extrapolate treatments and life-changes that the patient will undergo going forward and, perhaps most importantly, will be able to uphold the claim that a real tragedy has befallen the patient despite the effects being seemingly subjective. Chronic pain cases are difficult cases and an expert in pain medicine can play a crucial role in assisting the court to assess the level of resulting disability and deciding on a fair settlement.