One of the more common reasons for a disability application is back issues. They can also be some of the hardest cases to win. Why? Because the primary symptom of back problems is pain and pain is a subjective issue. No one feels how much pain you’re in nor is there any way to measure your pain to someone else. Further, each person tolerates a different amount of pain.
So what is the starting point of a disability back claim. First we turn to the objective evidence. What do the x-rays and MRI’s reveal. Are these things likely to be a cause of pain. In some instances, the x-rays and MRI’s reveal nothing, but people still have pain. Thus we also look for other positive tests like straight leg raises, tandem walks, mentions of gait disruptions, and range of motion.
After using objective tests to show there is a condition likely to produce pain, we turn to how pain effects your activities of daily living. We want the judge to understand how the pain you feel each day prevents you from completing tasks, or even doing tasks like grocery shopping, laundry, or other household chores. In fact, SSA will compare your statements to them, to your statements to your doctors, to your objective evidence in order to determine if your complaints of severity of pain are credible. This is why it is important for you to be able to verbalize how your pain affects your life and even to accurately describe your pain and to do so at each and every visit. It is also why it is helpful to have an attorney as soon as you can in the process to help you relay a firm and consistent message about your disability to Social Security.
Pain is a tricky subject when it comes to Social Security and many claimants lose their cases due to inconsistent messages between their statements to SSA, to their doctors, and their level of functioning .
See also my earlier posts What you can do to help your disability case and Why your medical records are not getting you approved for disability