Social Security Disability – Pain & Chronic Pain Conditions

Disabling Condition: Pain – Condition, Symptoms and Social Security Disability

Pain is frequently associated with injury, disease, illness and physical disabilities. The persistence and severity of pain may leave you unable to work even when you can otherwise deal with or accommodate your disability in your work or workplace.

Severe, persistent and long term pain is sometimes referred to as chronic pain. It may be pain that cannot be removed by standard medical treatment, or pain that persists beyond the expected duration of the injury or illness. It may even be pain which arises for an unknown reason.

Pain by its nature is subjective and personal to the individual, and this makes it difficult to measure by tests, physical signs or standards. Therefore, Social Security disability examiners and administrative law judges look for objective signs of residual functional capacity or the ability to perform work related activities.

Medical basis for claim

There is no listing for chronic pain in the Listings of Impairments manual (“Blue Book”) used by disability examiners and administrative law judges to determine whether a claimant meets or does not meet the Social Security Administration’s requirements for total disability. However pain or chronic pain can be an important factor in the approval of your Social Security Disability claim when you are suffering from other diagnosed impairments which are listed in the Listing of Impairments manual and are often related to chronic pain. These may include back injury (Listing 1.04), inflammatory arthritis (Listing 14.09), inflammatory bowel disease (Listing 5.06), neurological disorders (Listing 11.00), somatoform disorders (Listing 12.07) and other disabling conditions.

Proof of claim requirements

There are three elements to a claimant’s proof of pain. Claimant must show:

  1. There is a medically determinable physical or mental impairment;
  2. The impairment can cause the type of alleged symptom (pain), and,
  3. The pain places limits on the claimant’s Residual Functional Capacity to the degree the claimant asserts.

Elements one and two are matters that rely on medical records and medical opinion evidence. Lab test results, physical exam results, MRI reports, physical therapy notes and other evidence from a treating physician, emergency room, hospital or other medical source supporting both of these issues must be presented in support of your claim. You should inform you doctor about the location and severity of your pain, how that pain affects your daily activities and any factors that precipitate or aggravate your pain. Inclusion of these facts in the doctor’s treatment notes will help you establish that your physician is treating your pain as part of your medical condition and that they are a limitation of your functional abilities.

The third criteria can be proven by objective findings in the claimant’s medical opinions and records. It can also be established by testimony of the claimant and his/her lay witnesses (family, friends and other non-medical persons) about the daily activities of the claimant.

Residual Functional Capacity limitations

A Residual Functional Capacity Assessment (RFC) is performed to access your physical and/or mental limitations as part of the effort to determine whether the disability limits you so much that you are unable to work. It is difficult for the disability examiners to evaluate pain due to its subjective nature, and an RFC may not fully account for the effect of pain on your activities. However, the courts have required that Social Security must also consider the persistence, severity and limiting effects of pain symptoms in determining your ability to work.

In considering the limiting effects of pain on a claimant, Social Security should consider how the pain affects your activities of daily living and the type, dosage and side effects of medication taken to alleviate pain. You should discuss these with your doctor, and you should provide Social Security realistic summary statements of your actual daily activities. Your daily activities provide support for your claim of disability by showing how your ability to do common everyday tasks has been limited by your impairment, and therefore are a limit to your doing similar tasks in the workplace.

Mental effects of chronic pain

Dealing with pain on a daily basis is frustrating for the Social Security claimant. Pain can make it difficult to concentrate. The distraction caused by pain can limit the claimant’s ability to learn and retain new information. It may make the claimant irritable, impatient and hard to get along with. Chronic pain may cause the sufferer to become depressed and to withdraw from social activities. These emotional, social and psychological factors often severely limit the claimant’s ability to do work, to follow instructions or to interact with co-workers and supervisors. Social Security must consider these when determining your residual functional ability.


When pain or chronic pain is a significant aspect of your condition or impairment, an experienced attorney familiar with Social Security disability law can help you protect your rights and can help you get the benefits you deserve. We have the knowledge, experience and skill to assist you in dealing with the process of obtaining help from these Social Security benefits programs. We represent disabled individuals in SSA Disability claims throughout North Georgia including Acworth, Canton, Cartersville, Dallas, Johns Creek, Marietta, Rome, Roswell and Woodstock Contact us today to discuss your situation and the benefits you are be entitled to receive.