Social Security Disability – Back Pain, Injury & Disease

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

Every day of our life we rely upon and place a large amount of stress and strain on our spines. When illness or disease limits our use of our neck or back, it affects almost all our daily activities. Disorders of the spine or spinal cord frequently result in intense and disabling pain. This can be due to disease or injury of any area of the back but is most frequently focused in the lower back (lumbar area) or the neck (cervical area). It can be caused by herniated disc, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis, vertebral fracture, spinal cord injury, bone spurs or accident.

Medical basis for claim

Social Security disability examiners and administrative law judges use the Listings of Impairments manual (“Blue Book”) as their guide to determine whether a claimant meets or does not meet the Social Security Administration’s requirements for total disability. The Blue Book listing for back and spine disorders is found in Section 1.04. The disability claimant must meet one of the three medical requirements found in this Listing by showing:

•A. Evidence of nerve root compression characterized by neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss, and, if the low back is involved, positive straight-leg raising test; or

•B. Spinal arachnoiditis confirmed by operative note, pathology report or medical imaging, and manifested by severe burning or painful dysesthesia resulting in need to change position or posture more than once every two hours; or

•C. Lumbar spinal stenosis established by finding on medical imaging, manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness and resulting in inability to ambulate effectively as defined in 1.00B2b.

The disability claimant with cervical or neck disorders is for all practical purposes limited to establishing his or her disability under Listing Section 1.04A. In addition to the medical evidence supporting the claim, the claimant usually must show that he or she is so functionally limited by the condition and the pain that he or she precluded from performing any work activity. Advanced age (over 50), limited education and other factors may allow the attorney to argue that limitation to sedentary or light duty work will uphold a finding of disabled by Social Security.

The disability claimant with lumbar or low back injury or disease may proceed under the requirements of Listing Section 1.04A or Section 1.04C. The lower back supports much of the weight of body and it is the source of nerve distribution to the legs. Many social security disability attorneys consider a claim based on low back disease or injury easier to win than a claim based on neck pain. The medical requirements of Listing Section 104A are substantially the same for the neck or for the lower back. Listing Section 104C allows recovery where the acceptable medical findings are present and the claimant’s pain results in an “… inability to ambulate effectively.” The definition of “…inability to ambulate effectively…” is complex. In general it means an extreme limitation on the ability to walk to the extent it interferes seriously with an individual’s ability to act independently. Examples include the need for the use of two crutches or canes for walking, the need to have a companion assistance to walk to or from employment, the inability to walk a city block over uneven or rough surfaces, or the inability to climb even a few stairs using only one handrail. As with neck injury or disease, advanced age (over 50), limited education and other factors may allow the attorney to argue that limitation to sedentary or light duty work will uphold a finding of disabled by Social Security.

Claimants with any type of back injury may be experiencing severe or chronic pain. It may be pain that cannot be removed by standard medical treatment. In such cases it may be feasible to argue that the claimant is disabled due to pain or pain syndrome. In considering the limiting effects of pain on a claimant with a back disorder, 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.

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

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. An examiner completing an RFC form for a back disorder will seek to determine the ability of the claimant to do common daily and work related tasks such as bending, stooping, lifting over 10 or more pounds, standing and walking. In addition to other evidence, the RFC is used by the vocational expert and by the hearing judge to evaluate what types of jobs and what level of job activity (full duty, light duty, sedentary) are appropriate for the claimant. It may also be used to support a finding that the claimant is disabled and entitled to benefits.


When a back disorder results in serious pain and in the inability to continue working, 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 Georgia including Acworth, Alpharetta, Canton, Cartersville, Duluth, Dallas, Johns Creek, Marietta, Rome, Roswell and Woodstock Contact us today to discuss your situation and the benefits you are be entitled to receive.

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