Back Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits

Written by John Horn. Posted in Blogs, Social Security Disability

Back painBack pain is extremely common, especially among middle-aged and senior citizens. While most people can function despite their pain, especially with medical treatment and healthy lifestyle choices, others find their pain disabling and cannot work.

The Social Security Administration receives many applications for Social Security Disability for back pain, but it only approves a few of them. Learn what conditions qualify you for benefits and how you can present the strongest case on your application. As always, you’ll get the best results if you both inform yourself and rely on the advice of an experienced lawyer.

What Causes Back Pain?

If you have back pain, your first chore is to figure out what is causing it. That way, you can attempt to treat it, and if that fails, you can apply for Social Security Disability benefits.

Many people experience back pain simply as a result of getting older. As people age, their bones and connective tissue wear down, causing pain. However, not all back pain is a result of aging, and even if it is, not all back pain can be dealt with without specialized help from doctors and financial help from organizations like the Social Security Administration.

Common causes of back pain include:

  • Osteoarthritis, or the wearing down of cartilage between your bones
  • Degenerative discs, a condition where the cushioning between your vertebrae wears out
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease that targets the joints
  • Arachnoiditis, where a membrane surrounding your spinal cord’s nerves becomes inflamed
  • Herniated discs, where the soft part of a spinal disc pushes out through a gap in the exterior casing

While this list includes many common causes, it isn’t definitive. Back pain can be caused by so many problems, so you’ll need to consult with your doctor before you do anything else.

What Criteria Does the Social Security Administration Use?

If you cannot work because of your back pain and wish to get Social Security Disability benefits, you’ll need to meet their criteria.

To begin with, your condition needs to last, or be expected to last, for at least one year. If you have back pain from a car accident that your doctors expect will heal before the year is up, you won’t qualify for benefits.

Additionally, your back pain needs to have a “medically determinable” cause, or in other words, a cause that doctors can identify. If you’re not sure what’s causing your back pain, you won’t qualify for benefits. On the other hand, an applicant may claim a condition causes his or her back pain, but if the condition doesn’t normally cause back pain, the applicant will be turned down. For example, you can’t claim that your back pain is because of a cold, even though a cold is a legitimate medical problem.

The third criteria the Social Security Administration uses to decide if you need benefits is how impaired you are. If your back pain limits your range of motion, which means you may not be able to perform your job’s duties that will be taken into account.

The Social Security Administration will try to assess your credibility. While you can (and should) include evidence of your medical problem, like doctors’ notes and X-rays, Social Security will still have to decide if they should believe that you’re telling the truth about your pain. Social Security will take into account things like how often you’ve gone to the doctor, if your reported pain level is similar to others with your condition, and what kinds of medical treatment you’ve attempted. Your age, education level and past work history will also be taken into account.

How Can You Improve Your Application’s Chances?

If you need disability benefits for your back pain, your first step should be going to a doctor—and hopefully not for the first time. If you’re considering disability benefits, you’ve probably been in to see a medical professional many times by now, trying to solve the problem, before you finally decided that you can’t continue working.

Your doctor can provide records showing your past visits, his or her notes on your condition and treatment, his or her opinion about what your prognosis is like, and images like X-rays and MRIs that show the damage in your back. All of this information will be helpful for those who decide if you need benefits or not. Next, when you fill out your application, make sure you tell the whole truth. You should be honest about how much your back pain impacts your daily life, but you shouldn’t exaggerate or change your story because that will damage your credibility.

Since so many disability benefits applications for back pain get rejected by the Social Security Administration, you’d benefit from getting an expert on your side to help you navigate the process. Speak with a qualified lawyer who has experience with Social Security Disability applications. Horn & Kelley, PC, Attorneys at Law can help you get the correct information on your application so your chances of acceptance are as high as possible.


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