Fighting To Get You The
Disability Benefits You Need

Disability For Back Pain

Back pain can be frustrating and, at times, even incapacitating. But getting disability for back pain is often an uphill battle, as the SSA doesn’t readily hand out benefits. Below, we discuss what you need to know about qualifying for disability benefits. To learn more about how a Charlotte, North Carolina, disability lawyer can help, contact Disability Attorney Services today.

Can I Get Disability For Back Pain?

While you may not be able to get disability benefits for back pain itself, back pain is usually a symptom of another condition. In order for that condition to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must show that:

  • You cannot do work you performed before
  • You cannot adjust to other work due to your medical conditions
  • Your condition is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death

The SSA will also evaluate your back pain to determine whether your:

  • Objective symptoms match an impairment listing for spinal disorders
  • Functional limitations restrict your ability to work
  • Complaints of back pain are credible

How The SSA Will Evaluate Your Credibility

Since back pain is highly subjective, the SSA will try to evaluate your credibility and determine whether your condition is as severe as you claim it is. They may consider factors such as:

  • Frequency of your visits to the doctor
  • Types of treatments you have tried
  • Your physician’s opinion regarding your pain and limitations
  • The extent to which your pain affects your daily activities
  • Whether or not it looks like you are exaggerating your pain level

Common Causes Of Back Pain

When determining whether your back pain is related to an impairment listing, the SSA will look at a list of spinal disorders that can be measured objectively.

Nerve Root Compression

A nerve root compression may meet the requirements for a disability listing when the spinal nerve root is compressed causing radiating pain, limited range of motion, weakened muscles and dulled reflexes. An MRI may show nerve root compression, or a lumbar diagnosis may be made with a positive straight leg raising test. Your back pain may limit your vocational abilities, including your ability to walk, stoop and more. Reduced functional capacity may make you more likely to be approved for disability benefits due to nerve root compression.

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc is often referred to as a bulging disc or ruptured disc. It involves the soft discs between your vertebrae that act to relieve pressure from the bones. Treatment often involves physical therapy, nonsteroidal pain medications, injections and oral steroids. Spinal surgery is sometimes an option.

Herniated discs can cause severe back pain. In order to be considered for SSD/SSI, your condition must have lasted or be expected to last at least one year. Many herniated discs heal within a year, but those that don’t may require additional treatment. Other conditions that may involve a herniated disc include nerve root compression, stenosis and arachnoiditis.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal narrows and compresses the nerves. This can cause severe back pain as well as reflex abnormalities, weakness in the arms and legs, pain in the arms, sensory deficits and wasting muscles. Walking often aggravates the pain associated with spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis is a listing on the SSA impairment chart. In order to qualify for benefits, you must have pain and weakness in your lower extremities, continual nonradicular pain, an MRI that shows lumbar spinal stenosis and an inability to walk unassisted. It’s important to have objective tests in order to show the severity of your spinal stenosis.

Spinal Arachnoiditis

Spinal arachnoiditis involves inflammation of the arachnoid, which is a membrane surrounding the spinal cord. It can cause severe back pain, stinging, burning pain and neurological problems. Muscle cramps, weakness in the legs, and bladder or bowel problems are also common.

A CAT scan or MRI can help with diagnosis, as well as an electromyogram to assess the severity and ongoing impact on nerves. The SSA may approve disability benefits for spinal arachnoiditis if it is expected to keep you from working for at least 12 months.


Scoliosis is an abnormal spine curvature that results in a “C” or “S” shape of the spine. The severity of the condition varies greatly, as does the impact of the condition. People who suffer from scoliosis may have difficulty breathing, severe back pain and nerve damage. They often require spinal surgery to correct or treat the condition.

Only the most severe cases of scoliosis qualify for SSD/SSI benefits. A person may meet the requirements if they further qualify under nerve root compression, inflammation of the membrane surrounding the spine or narrowing of the spine. Or, they may meet qualifications if they are unable to work for 12 months due to the scoliosis.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is an autoimmune disorder, as well as an inflammatory arthritic disorder and a rheumatic disease. It can impact various areas of the body, including internal organs, the eyes and more. The condition can cause severe back pain and stiffness to affected areas. The SSA does recognize AS in the disability listing as an inflammatory disorder, and you may be automatically approved for benefits if your condition is serious enough.

We Can Help You Determine Whether You Qualify For Disability For Back Pain

Back pain is often a sign of a serious underlying condition, which can impact your ability to work. But it takes knowledge and experience navigating the Social Security Disability claims process to ensure that you maximize your chances of receiving benefits. Don’t try to handle the SSA on your own. Contact Disability Attorney Services today to learn more about how we can help.