Fibromyalgia, You Are Not Going Crazy!

Posted By: Tony Baratta | February 2nd, 2017

I recently completed the representation of a woman who suffered injuries to her neck and back after being rear ended by a commercial truck.  Her Jeep Cherokee was caused $20,000 in property damage so it was a massive hit.

At the time of the injury she was 62 years old and had worked full time as an administrative assistant, a sedentary job, for many years.  Fortunately she suffered no broken bones, radiology studies revealed no herniated disc in the neck or back and other diagnostic tests were normal.  But she had ongoing and disruptive pain in her neck and back which would not resolve.  She was diagnosed by her treating doctors with strains and sprains of the neck and back, whiplash essentially.  She underwent physical therapy which only aggravated her symptoms.

She tried to return to the job she loved, but after a few days, the pain overwhelmed her and her doctors said she should not return to work.  It was discovered that any kind of mental stress exacerbated her painful condition.  She was constantly fatigued, and with the pain, it felt like she had a daily flu.

For the next two years this woman endured a number of different medical treatments for the pain in her neck and back and depression as a result of her loss of work and hobby of needle working, such as physical therapy, numerous medications, trigger point injections, chiropractic treatment, cervical and lumbar dynamic decompression/traction treatments and biweekly visits to a psychologist.  Everyone told her that she had only soft tissue injuries, strains and sprains, that should have resolved.  No one could give her an answer as to why she continued to have so much pain.  She felt like she must be crazy.

Finally, my client visited with a rheumotologist.  He diagnosed her with post-traumatic fibromyalgia.  This is not an injury that can be observed on any diagnostic test.  The diagnosis is made by a patients symptoms and a doctors physical examination.  It is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal  pain and fatigue as well as cognitive and psychiatric disturbances.  Physical exam reveals tenderness in multiple soft tissue anatomic locations.  In 1990 the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) established that a person may be properly diagnosed with fibromyalgia if a person has a history of widespread pain on both sides of the body and above and below the waist, at least 11 of 18 specific points are tender on physical exam, and all other medical reasons for the pain are excluded.   There exists no laboratory testing to prove the diagnosis

The rheumotologist who diagnosed my client explained to me how trauma can initiate the disorder: “Subsequent to injury to the soft tissues, a process known as central sensitization occurs in which the pain centers in our brain continue to perceive ongoing pain impulses despite the fact there should be normal resolution of these impulses with healing.”  He compared the process as like in phantom limb syndrome, where an amputee can still feel pain in his amputated foot.

On October 1, 2015, Fibromyalgia was officially recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the National Center for Health Statistics as a disease with its own diagnosis code for insurance companies and government agencies.  This means that the treatment for the disorder will be paid by health insurers and other plans.

Although my client still suffers since the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, she is able to get the proper treatment and she no longer feels like she is crazy.  Someone finally heard her.

About the Author

Tony Baratta is a trial attorney in Huntingdon Valley, PA who represents clients who have been seriously injured. Tony is the founding partner of Baratta, Russell, & Baratta and a member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BPIA). Tony is on the board for the Philadelphia VIP, member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for trial attorneys and voted one of Philadelphia’s Super Lawyers for the past 11 years and a recipient of the First Judicial District Pro Bono Award for the Civil Trial Division.

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