Back pain affects thousands of people each year and typically can be experienced more frequently as we get older. Chronic back pain is another story. It can be more than simply uncomfortable and can lead to major life limitations that can leave some sufferers completely unable to leave their house, much less work for a living. When this is the case, they may want to consider applying for Social Security disability benefits.
Chronic back pain can stem from a variety of causes, including injury, disease, infection, or some combination. These can cause a searing or stabbing pain and numbness when the back is moved. Other symptoms that can be debilitating to the sufferer and leave them home-bound include an aching or stiffness along the spine, neck pain, or back pain that radiates to the buttocks and legs. These can be accompanied by problems urinating, weakness in the arms or legs, or problems controlling the bowels.
The pain is considered chronic if it does not improve within six weeks and is such that it limits a person’s ability to perform normal daily activities. The list of limitations included to qualify for social security disability are difficulty walking, sitting, standing, lifting, reaching, carrying, pushing, and pulling.
These limits, though, can lead to others that may or may not be self-imposed. People with chronic back pain may feel they cannot participate in social activities. Simply getting into and out of a car could be more than they can handle. Driving, with the need to grip and turn the wheel, work the pedals by lifting the feet, and move the head from side to side, may seem impossible.
Exiting the house itself requires a series of movements that others not suffering chronic back pain think nothing about: standing from a chair, walking to the closet and extending the arms to shrug into a coat, climbing or descending stairs. There is little chance a sufferer of chronic back pain could grab a bus at the corner or handle the curbing to walk any distance.
The social security disability process will take into account other factors in a person’s daily routine, including the location of the pain and its duration, the types of medication needed to relieve or cope with the pain, or any treatment they are receiving. There may be other treatments, such as lying flat for a period of time, that the person uses to help with their pain.
Medications needed to alleviate pain can be enough on its own to limit a person’s ability or willingness to leave the house. Muscle relaxants can be sedating and cause extreme drowsiness. A narcotics or opioid is often prescribed to those who have had a long-term disability or have had back surgery. In fact, as many as 70 percent of patients with back pain have receive such a prescription. These medications, however, have side effects including drowsiness, constipation, and allergic reactions, such as hives. All these side effects and the real possibility of addiction can limit a person’s ability to function in the world
Article written by Michael Baxter