An Augusta disability lawyer explains how back pain may qualify you for Social Security disability benefits in Georgia
Claims based on back pain are common among our Georgia and South Carolina Social Security disability clients. At some point in our lives, almost everyone has back pain, but most people who have low back pain from a ligament strain or other soft-tissue problem will recover in a few months. However, others have a chronic problem that qualifies for Social Security disability benefits.
Types of back pain
Back pain can be caused by many different things. The types that are most frequently seen and accepted by the Social Security Administration are:
Although we are often not aware of it, some amount of osteoarthritis is common in middle-aged people. There are several different forms of osteoarthritis of the spine.
Degenerative disc disease (DDD).
Degenerative disc disease is common in many older people. individuals. It can be identified by medical imaging (X-rays, MRI, CT) of the spine. Sometimes a combination of osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease produces enough symptoms that surgical fusion is performed in the lumbar spine (lumbar fusion) or cervical spine (neck).
Herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP).
A herniated nucleus pulposus is the protrusion of the hard, cartilaginous center of an intervertebral disk through the outer fibrous tissue. Some Social Security disability claimants have a large herniated nucleus pulposus that presses on a spinal nerve root, and must have part of the herniated nucleus pulposus removed.
Osteoporosis is a metabolic disorder that is associated with a decrease in the mass of bone. Most of the instances of osteoporosis seen by the Social Security Administration are in post-menopausal women. Many of these disability claimants have the osteoporosis confined to their spines, whereas those with osteoporosis related to chronic use of corticosteroid drugs may have other bones involved as well.
Fractures of the bony spine are most commonly related to automobile or motorcycle accidents. Traumatically fractured vertebrae are treated with a combination of surgical fusion and sometimes stabilization with metal rods.
The most serious tumors of the spine arise from cancer that has spread to the spine from breast, colon, prostate, or other origin. Tumors can not only cause chronic pain, but result in spinal fractures as they destroy bone.
Arachnoiditis is inflammation of some part of the arachnoid membrane that covers the spinal cord, and can produce severe chronic pain. Arachnoiditis may occur as a result of infection, but most commonly is seen after surgical procedures and use of contrast material used to enhance visualization of structures with X-rays during myelography.
Lumbar strain refers to stress on the ligaments, muscles, and other soft tissues near the spine with resultant pain. When back pain continues for a prolonged period, orthopedists and other doctors tend to apply the diagnosis of “chronic lumbar strain,” if there is no other underlying identifiable abnormality that can be seen on imaging studies.
Spondylolisthesis is a slippage of vertebral bodies out of their normal position.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the space inside the bony spine, thereby sometimes causing pressure on the spinal cord and peripheral nerve roots from the spinal cord. The Social Security Administration usually sees these cases in disability claimants who have severe osteoarthritis of the lower spine.
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature to the spine, associated with pain but not neurological impairment. Scoliosis is usually genetic in origin and can be of any degree of severity; often the scoliosis is associated with one leg being shorter than the other.
Medical tests do not show the severity of back pain
One of the problems with getting the Social Security Administration to recognize back pain as qualifying for disability benefits is that the severity of back pain cannot be measured by the standard medical tests. X-rays, computerized tomographic (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spine will show certain abnormalities, but they do not measure pain.
Furthermore, some people who have significant degenerative abnormalities who very little pain, while other people who have incapacitating back pain have only minimal objective abnormalities according to the medical tests.
Because it can be difficult to establish the severity of back pain through objective medical tests, subjective evidence becomes an important part of a Social Security disability claim based on back pain. Subjective evidence primarily means your statements about your symptoms and pain, and to convince the Social Security Administration of the truth of your subjective evidence, it is important to be credible. Your credibility is demonstrated by your behavior in seeking relief of your symptoms. That is, the activities that are limited by pain, the nature and frequency of visits to a doctor for treatment, the response you have to treatment that you receive, and comments about your credibility in the treating doctor’s records.
Have an Augusta disability attorney help you with your claim
Dealing with the Social Security Administration is always difficult because of the complex and confusing rules that are used to evaluate disabilities. However, back pain claims can be particularly difficult, and require careful development of evidence.
If you are not already represented by a Georgia or South Carolina Social Security disability lawyer, consider asking for our evaluation of your claim. Give us a brief description of your claim using the form to the right.