Back Pain


Can I Get Social Security Disability for Back Pain?

Back pain can be caused by a number of different conditions, some of which are common with age (such as degenerative disc disease or arthritis). To qualify for disability benefits, you must have a “medically determinable” impairment that lasts for at least one year. This means that x-rays, MRIs, or at least your doctor’s notes after a physical examination must show that your back pain is caused by some physical abnormality of the spine or spinal canal. If you have back pain without objective medical evidence of a physical impairment that normally produces pain symptoms like yours, you’re unlikely to receive disability benefits.

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Social Security evaluates the severity of your back pain by looking at:

  • Your objective symptoms, to see whether they match the requirements in Social Security’s impairment listing for spinal disorders.
  • Your functional limitations (for example, inability to bend or stoop, trouble walking, sitting for long periods of time or you need to switch positions frequently).
  • Your credibility, since most of your claim is based on your subjective reports of back pain.

The key to proving your claim is whether the claims examiner or more likely, the administrative law judge, believes your pain is as bad as you say it is.

Social Security evaluates your credibility by looking at:

  • How often you have been to the doctor
  • What treatments you have tried
  • Your doctor’s opinion of your pain level and limitations
  • How the pain affects your activities of daily living
  • Whether you appear to be exaggerating your level of pain
  • How much pain is normally reported by others with your physical findings, and
  • Whether there is objective medical evidence to support your complaints.

If you have chronic back pain due to an injury or just wear and tear, and it is affecting your ability to work, please contact us at 315-471-1664 to discuss whether you should file a claim for Social Security Disability.

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