According to the American Chiropractic Association, up to 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Understandably, chronic back pain is the most common disability alleged in applications for Social Security Disability. But the commonness of back pain also makes it harder to get approved for disability benefits. When you file a claim for back pain, understand that Social Security Administration (SSA) will look to determine which claims for back pain are the most severe and actually prevent the claimant from working in any capacity.
Back pain can be caused for a variety of reasons. You might suffer an injury, or your body might just break down as a result of aging. Most injuries, such as muscle strains or fractures usually heal within a matter of weeks or months, so those claims often will not qualify you for benefits.
There are a variety of spinal conditions that can cause back pain and other related problems that may qualify you for disability benefits. These include but are not limited to: osteoarthritis; rheumatoid arthritis; degenerative disc disorder; herniated discs; arachnoiditis; spondylitis; scoliosis; spinal stenosis; spondylolisthesis; and nerve root compression. Your examinations, which can include MRIs, doctors’ notes, and X-rays, will indicate that you suffer from a spinal abnormality, and this abnormality is what causes you severe discomfort and back pain.
Next, you may wonder what will be required of you to prove your back pain. SSA does not have a Blue Book listing for back pain, but it does have listing for some of the specific conditions noted above that may cause back pain. If you do not meet a specific condition’s listing, but you can prove that your back pain meets the equivalent for one of them, you may still qualify for benefits. Through the medical-vocational allowance, SSA will take your conditions, limitations, and symptoms into consideration with your transferable skills, work experience, age, and education.
If you use this method, your treating physician will have to complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) form that indicates specific limitations like how far you can walk, if you require assistive devices to walk, such as canes or crutches, if you are unable to stand for more than 1-2 hours, and how often you have to change positions.
Regardless of your condition and how you prove it, you have to provide SSA with evidence of how your back pain affects your ability to work and how it limits your daily activities. SSA will consider the following to evaluate your credibility: whether you appear to be exaggerating your level of pain; what treatments you have tried; how often you have been to the doctor; your doctor’s opinion of your level of pain and limitations; how your pain affects your activities of daily living; and how much pain is normally reported by people who have the same conditions.
In the event that SSA does not think you have proven the severity of your claim, it may require you to undergo additional medical examinations at its expense.