Painful Skin Condition

Boston Disability Attorney Discusses Social Security Disability Insurance for Allodynia Patients

Living with allodynia can make the simplest tasks feel unbearable. When even light touch can cause excruciating pain, everyday activities can be a constant struggle, both at home and at work. If your condition has reached the point where working no longer seems possible, you may consider applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Learn how the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates claims for benefits by enlisting an experienced SSDI lawyer who can provide the support you need.  

Allodynia Causes and Symptoms Explained

People with allodynia experience a type of hypersensitivity on their skin. Usually, non-painful stimulation, like clothing brushing up against the skin, can cause a severe pain reaction. A light touch, which shouldn’t hurt, causes an abnormal amount of pain in allodynia sufferers. The experience can be similar to a severe sunburn, where a gentle touch can be very painful. The term “allodynia” literally means “other pain.” 

Scientists believe the root cause of allodynia is a process called central sensitization. During a migraine, nociceptors (sensory pain nerves) react to the inflammation of blood vessels, causing the throbbing pain characteristic of migraines. Over time, this can cause the nerves in the spinal cord and brain stem to become hyperexcitable. Normal sensory signals are amplified and produce intense pain responses from abnormal processing of signals in the central nervous system. 

Severity and frequency vary between people with allodynia. Some may experience a greater number of symptoms at the same time, too. Migraines with auras appear to have a stronger connection with allodynia. Diabetes and chronic pain conditions may also predispose a person to allodynia. 

Allodynia Risk Factors

Along with its comorbidity with migraines, allodynia also appears to be linked to other risk factors. 

  • Women experience allodynia more often than men.
  • People who are obese or overweight are at greater risk of allodynia.
  • Smoking is linked to higher rates of allodynia.
  • Childhood trauma, especially emotional abuse, is associated with allodynia in adults. 

Types of Allodynia 

Doctors categorize allodynia into three main types. Two types of allodynia are mechanical, meaning they refer to physical touch. The third type refers to a heightened sensitivity to temperature. Patients may experience one, two, or all three types of allodynia.

  • Tactile allodynia, also called static allodynia, is when a person experiences pain when they feel a light touch or pressure on their skin. This could be as simple as resting an arm on a chair or holding the steering wheel of a car.
  • Dynamic allodynia is a type of mechanical allodynia in which a person feels pain when an object brushes or moves across the skin. They may experience this when shaving or putting on clothing. 
  • Thermal allodynia refers to experiencing pain when exposed to mild changes in temperature, either warm or cold. A cool breeze could trigger a thermal allodynia response. 

Medical Conditions Related to Allodynia

Allodynia is most commonly associated with migraines, particularly migraines with auras and chronic migraines. Migraines often involve mixed-up signals in the central nervous system, which can lead to the process of central sensitization described above. As many as four out of five migraine sufferers experience allodynia symptoms. 

While allodynia symptoms may subside as the migraine fades, it can also persist after the headache is gone. For people with chronic migraines, allodynia can also be a frequent occurrence affecting their daily lives. 

Allodynia is also associated with other medical conditions and disorders, including:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic tension headaches
  • Postherpetic neuralgia

If central sensitization manifests as one pain-related condition, like allodynia, the person has a higher risk of developing other pain conditions. 

Impact on Substantial Gainful Employment

The primary factor that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers when reviewing SSDI applications is whether the medical condition prevents the applicant from working. The symptoms must be sufficiently severe that returning to their past job or pivoting to a different job isn’t possible. 

The SSA defines substantial gainful activity (SGA) based on the amount of earned income. This figure changes each year, adjusted to the National Average Wage Index. For 2024, the monthly SGA limit is $1,550 for non-blind individuals and $2,590 for statutorily blind individuals. You can earn up to this amount and still qualify for disability benefits. 

The inability to touch objects without experiencing excruciating pain may be enough to stop people from allodynia from being able to work. This is similar to how fibromyalgia may qualify for SSDI. People with fibromyalgia may experience widespread musculoskeletal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, depression, and anxiety. 

How to Qualify for Social Security Benefits With Allodynia

Not everyone with allodynia is eligible to receive SSDI benefits from the SSA. The symptoms must be persistent and severe enough to stop you from working for at least 12 months. The SSA has a set of very strict criteria for determining if an applicant qualifies to receive benefits. You must support your claim with medical evidence, describing your symptoms, treatments, and the progression of your condition.  

Meeting or Equaling a Blue Book Listing

The Social Security Administration maintains a Blue Book listing of impairments. If applicants are diagnosed with one of the medical conditions in the Blue Book and meet its listing requirements, they automatically qualify for SSDI. The SSA currently does not include allodynia, migraines, or fibromyalgia in its Blue Book. 

To qualify for disability, SSDI applicants with allodynia can try to meet or equal an existing Blue Book listing. This requires demonstrating that the severity of their symptoms is medically equivalent to a recognized medical condition in the Blue Book. One relevant example is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), listed under Blue Book Section 5.00 (Digestive Disorders). 

Someone with allodynia may also suffer from IBD, documented by endoscopy, biopsy, imaging, or operative findings. The Blue Book listing also calls for repeated complications of IBD an average of three times a year, with each lasting at least two weeks, plus “marked limitation” in activities of daily living (ADL). 

Proving Your Level of Disability 

Qualifying for SSDI requires comparing your current impairments with the physical and mental demands of your past work. Working with an experienced SSDI lawyer can strengthen your claim that you are disabled. The SSA’s disability examiner will also decide whether or not you have the ability to switch to a different occupation where your impairments are less of an impediment. 

A simple diagnosis on its own is not enough to qualify for disability benefits. Instead, the SSA looks at how much the condition impacts your functional ability to work. The SSA does not award benefits for partial or short-term disability. To further support your claim, you may include a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment from your doctor, along with other medical reports and test results.

Meeting Technical Requirements

Along with providing medical proof that allodynia symptoms are making it impossible for you to work, you must also meet certain technical requirements in your SSDI application. The SSA rejects many applications based on a technical denial. The rejection could be based on a general lack of detail or information to determine your SSDI eligibility.

Two other crucial criteria are work credits and substantial gainful activity (SGA). You must have accrued enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. Most applicants need 40 credits, of which 20 must have been earned in the last ten years. You also mustn’t exceed the SGA income limits for the year. 

Get Skilled Help With Your SSDI Application

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance involves a lot of paperwork. Working with a Social Security disability lawyer can not only help you avoid making common mistakes but also work to build the strongest case possible for your claim. 

The experienced legal team at Keefe Disability Law knows what’s needed in a successful application. It is important to provide the SSA with a complete picture of your disability. Along with allodynia, you can also get disability for multiple conditions. Listing secondary conditions can bolster your claim, as the SSA looks at the combined effect of your impairments in considering your application. Let us help you gather sufficient medical evidence, meet filing deadlines, and navigate the complex application process.

Patrick Hartwig
Connect with me
Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law