Proving your pain to the Alabama Social Security Administration

As Dothan Social Security disability lawyers, we know that chronic pain is the reason many of our clients seek Social Security disability benefits.  But proving that your pain is bad enough to keep you from working can be difficult.  Social Security decision makers like disabilities that can been seen and measured.  Unfortunately, no machine or test can measure how bad your pain is.  That is why the Social Security Administration looks for certain indicators that can reveal the seriousness of your pain:

  • Have you reported your pain to your health care providers and to Social Security consistently?
  • Have you seen pain specialists?
  • What treatments have your tried (medications, injections, surgery, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, traction, acupuncture, physical therapy, heat and cold packs)?
  • How effective have treatments been?
  • Do medical imaging tests (x-rays, scans) show abnormalities?
  • Do you have any physical signs associated with pain, e.g., limping, swelling, atrophy?
  • Do you need to use assistive devices, like a cane or braces?

Tips for proving your pain

See a doctor. You must have medical records from a doctor that show you have a condition that could cause pain.  Your word is not enough. If your pain is bad enough to interfere with your job, Social Security expects that you would see a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.  Try to see a pain specialist, if possible.  Social Security gives more weight to opinions from specialists.

Tell your doctor about all your pain and all your symptoms. Your case will be stronger if your pain and symptoms are documented in your medical records.  Before your doctor’s appointment, make a list of all your symptoms.  Include everything that is bothering you, even pain from older injuries that you have learned to cope with and symptoms that seem to be minor.  Give the list to your doctor to add to your records.

Follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations. If you don’t follow medical advice, Social Security decision makers may conclude that your pain is not as severe as you claim.  In addition, you can be denied Social Security disability benefits if you refuse, without good reason, to follow treatment that is expected to restore your ability to work.

Keep a pain calendar or journal. Jot down short notes describing your pain (e.g., awake most of night with stabbing neck pain) or rating it on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worse pain imaginable (e.g., pain at 7 all a.m.).  Note other symptoms that limit or keep you from working (e.g., legs swollen—needed to elevate 3x this p.m.).  Give copies of the journal to your doctor and your disability attorney.

Help is available from Dothan Social Security attorneys

If you suffer from pain or other symptoms that cause or contribute to your inability to work, consider consulting an experienced Alabama Social Security lawyer.  If you are not already represented and would like an evaluation of your case, please describe your claim using the form to the right, and we will respond promptly. Or you may contact us.

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