Back Pain SSDI

Review Your SSDI Eligibility and Strengthen Your Application With Our Massachusetts Disability Lawyers 

Living with an inflammatory spinal condition can be incredibly debilitating. Conditions like ankylosing spondylitis can bring excruciating back pain and reduced mobility. If you have an inflammatory spinal condition, you may have it downright impossible to continue working. As you continue with medical treatments, you may be able to find financial relief from government programs.

When you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must present a well-documented case. Keefe Disability Law has years of experience guiding clients through the SSDI application process. Let us review your eligibility to improve the likelihood of a successful claim. We will ensure your medical records and other evidence are as thorough and accurate as possible.

Examples of Debilitating Inflammatory Spinal Conditions

Among people with low back pain, about one in 20 also have an inflammatory disease. Symptoms vary across conditions, but they tend to share a few common factors. People with inflammatory spinal conditions often suffer from serious back pain. The pain lasts for at least three months and is the most pronounced at night. Morning stiffness is also common. You may get some relief from exercise, but the pain doesn’t seem to subside with rest alone. 

You may also experience fever, chills, and chronic fatigue. The swelling from inflammation may move to other joints. It may also impact critical organs like the heart, lungs, and eyes. Some people may start to display a stooped posture with severe back stiffness. Inflammatory spinal conditions can lead to serious impairment and reduced quality of life. 

Ankylosing Spondylitis

One of the most common inflammatory disorders affecting the spine is ankylosing spondylitis. It can start with inflammation at the base of the spine where it joins with the pelvis. Over time, ligaments and tendons erode. During reduced swelling, new bone may form in the new vacant space. This creates a vicious cycle wherein the new bony growth restricts movement and causes even more inflammation. In some cases, bones may even fuse completely. 

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriasis is an itchy skin condition that affects a broad range of people. Arthritis refers to the painful inflammation of the joints. Taken together, psoriatic arthritis describes when the skin condition causes severe joint pain and stiffness. Joints in the spine can become inflamed and swollen. Severe pain in the fingers and toes can make daily activities very challenging. 

Reactive Arthritis

A type of autoimmune disorder, reactive arthritis, results when the body reacts to an infection. It is a normal reaction for an infected part of the body to swell. This is part of the healing process and can usually be managed. Reactive arthritis is problematic when it expands unchecked to other areas in the body, including the spine. People with reactive arthritis may experience joint pain, conjunctivitis (redness of the eyes), and urethritis (urinary tract inflammation). 

Arthritis Associated With Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Causing inflammation in the intestines, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can refer to Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. It can lead to a condition called enteropathic arthritis or enteropathic arthropathy. Inflammation can spread to the arms, legs, and spine, causing joint tenderness and digestive problems. About one in five people with IBD develop this type of arthritis. 

Other Spinal Inflammation

Other types of inflammatory spinal conditions include the following:

  • Arachnoiditis affects the membranes surrounding the nerves of the spinal cord.
  • Discitis refers to an infection in the spaces between spinal segments. 
  • Sacroiliitis is an inflammation of the sacroiliac joint near the pelvis.

Impact on Working and Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

When evaluating SSDI applications, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is primarily interested in answering one question. Is the medical condition sufficiently disabling that they can no longer work? The technical term here is substantial gainful activity (SGA). The SSA adjusts the monthly income limit for SGA each year. Critically, the disability must also be expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.

The severity of your back pain and the impairment it causes are the most important factors. Say your doctor has diagnosed you with an inflammatory spinal condition like ankylosing spondylitis. Your back hurts for a few minutes each morning, but you manage your pain with medication. Your job doesn’t require long periods of sitting or any heavy lifting. In this case, you may not qualify for SSDI. 

By contrast, take an applicant who suffers from chronic back pain. The bouts of pain make it impossible to focus on their work. Their posture and mobility have been compromised. The arthritic inflammation has expanded to their hands and fingers, significantly affecting their ability to do clerical work. With severe impairment, this SSDI applicant has a better chance of being approved for disability benefits. 

Qualification Criteria for Social Security Disability Insurance

There are different paths to SSDI approval you might take if you have an inflammatory spinal condition.

Inflammatory Spinal Conditions in the SSA Blue Book

The SSA maintains a Blue Book of qualifying medical conditions. For each listed impairment, it outlines specific criteria you must meet. The SSA Blue Book contains a listing for inflammatory arthritis. Criteria include a documented medical need for a walker, bilateral canes, or bilateral crutches.

Subsection C of Section 14.09 for inflammatory arthritis specifically mentions ankylosing spondylitis. Qualifying applicants must demonstrate a fixation of the dorsolumbar or cervical spine. You’re required to provide appropriate medically acceptable imaging, plus a measurement from a physical examination. 

Meeting or Equaling a Blue Book Listing

What if the SSA Blue Book doesn’t list your specific condition? Or what if you don’t meet its specific criteria? You may still qualify for disability benefits if you can show your impairment is medically equivalent to an existing Blue Book listing. Along with relevant immune system disorders (14.00), you may meet or equal a listing under Section 1.00 Musculoskeletal Disorders. 

It’s important to consider the combined impact that your medical conditions have on your ability to work. Strengthen your SSDI claim by including secondary conditions. Along with spinal conditions, you may also suffer the effects of reconstructive surgery. Depression and anxiety can also contribute to your overall impairment. 

Residual Functional Capacity Assessment

In assessing and proving your overall level of disability, you may also get a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment from your doctor. A strong RFC assessment can support your claim that your condition is as disabling as a Blue Book listing. The in-depth evaluation looks at physical and mental limitations in practical terms.

You may also include an Activities of Daily Living (ADL) Questionnaire in your SSDI application. Whereas a doctor must complete an RFC assessment, an ADL questionnaire is based on self-report. It allows you to describe how your inflammatory spinal condition impacts your daily life. 

How Keefe Disability Can Help With Your SSDI Application

If you find that you can’t do your job anymore, you may relieve some financial burden with monthly SSDI benefits. Filling out all the paperwork can be confusing and overwhelming, though. There are a lot of medical and legal terms you may not understand. This is where the Social Security disability lawyers at Keefe Disability Law can help. 

We will take the time to sit down with you to discuss your SSDI eligibility. It’s important to substantiate your claims of severe back pain and reduced mobility with medical evidence. We can help you connect with qualified medical professionals and guide you through the whole process. Our disability lawyers can complete your application and submit it on your behalf. If needed, we’ll be there for the appeals process too. 

“I’ll never be able to thank you enough and your wonderful staff for helping me in attaining disability benefits – Your staff is outstanding, compassionate, and always professional,” writes Matthew from Laconia, New Hampshire. “I’m so pleased that I chose Keefe Disability Law to represent me. Your firm is incomparable in every sense.”  

Patrick Hartwig
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Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law