Living with back pain is a reality for many Americans. In fact, it is estimated that as much as 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Although many are fortunate to recover, others will experience chronic pain that limits their ability to work.
Chronic back pain involves symptoms that occur at any level of the spine and persist for three or more months. These symptoms are wide-ranging and can include sharpness, numbness, burning, tingling, and aching sensations.
In order to qualify for disability benefits through Social Security Administration (SSA) on the basis of back pain, you must prove that you have a medically determinable impairment that has lasted or will be expected to last at least 12 months. This impairment must also cause functional impairments that prevent the performance of even simple full-time work tasks.
Unfortunately, because back pain is so common in the United States, SSA reviews an extraordinary number of back pain disability claims. As a result, SSA awards benefits in only the most severe cases. Back pain does not have a corresponding Blue Book listing, but there are listings that apply to specific conditions that can cause back pain.
Some of the severe conditions that may qualify for benefits include herniated discs, scoliosis, degenerative disc disorder, and nerve root compression. No matter what causes your back pain, your condition must be thoroughly documented by your treating physician. Medical records, test results, and hospital notes are all helpful evidence you can use to prove your claim.
Another reason why it is so difficult to get approved for a back pain disability claim is because pain is subjective, and it is difficult to measure. If one of your conditions does not meet a listing, you may still qualify for benefits under medical-vocational allowance. Under this approach, your limitations, symptoms, and conditions are considered with your work experience, transferable skills, education, and age to determine if you would be able to do other work.
If you use medical-vocational allowance, your doctor will complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) form that indicates specifics of your condition, including how often you have to change positions, whether you are unable to stand for longer than 1-2 hours, if you require assistive devices to walk, and how far you can walk. Make sure all symptoms and side effects of your condition and any pain medication you take regularly are listed. The goal is to thoroughly explain how your condition affects your daily living and your ability to perform regular work duties.
In addition to physical pain, chronic back pain can also put a strain on your emotional resources. Emotional symptoms of severe pain can include depression, sleeplessness, anxiety, and fatigue. According to the American Chiropractic Association, between 30% to 80% of people living with chronic pain also live with depression and anxiety. The combination of chronic pain and mental illness can be more debilitating than one of those conditions alone.
If you suffer from chronic pain and depression/anxiety, contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney as soon as possible to increase the likelihood of a successful claim for disability benefits.