Back and spinal cord problems are some of the most common conditions that people have who apply for Social Security disability benefits. These conditions can be difficult to prove because a lot of the evidence is subjective in nature, such as pain, which everyone experiences differently. However, objective medical evidence can help you establish the validity of your claim.

Our dedicated disability attorneys are prepared to help you prove your claim and guide you through every step of the process to obtain the benefits you deserve.

Ways the SSA Evaluates Back Claims

The Social Security Administration (SSA) often evaluates claims for back pain based on three elements:

Objective Symptoms

Objective symptoms are those that can be verified through medical and other records. This includes doctor’s notes and diagnoses, imaging results and laboratory tests, among others. Examples of objective symptoms that may establish your disability that the SSA may accept include:

  • A CT scan that shows you have spinal stenosis
  • An X-ray that shows a fractured vertebra
  • An MRI that details bone degeneration
  • A discography or myelogram that shows damaged area in your back
  • A nerve conduction test that shows the presence of muscle weakness

The SSA will compare these symptoms with the impairment listing for spinal disorders.

Functional Limitations

The SSA will also determine the functional limitations you have because of your disabling condition. Functional limitations are those activities that you cannot do because of your spinal condition. The more of these limitations you are found to have, the less likely you can perform full time work.

Functional limitations are an essential factor in establishing your residual functional capacity, which is the most you can do given your limitations. The SSA uses your medical evidence to assess your residual functional capacity. Functional limitations that may be included on your assessment may include:

  • Time limits on how long you can sit or stand
  • Maximum weights that you can lift or carry on a frequent or occasional basis
  • Whether you can crouch as part of your job
  • How long you can work before needing a break
  • If you can reach overhead

Your doctor can prepare a residual functional capacity assessment form to demonstrate the full extent of your limitations.


Your credibility is always a factor in a disability claim. The SSA will compare the statements that you have made in your application and accompanying forms and compare them with your objective medical evidence and your treating doctors to see if your statements are consistent with this information.

The SSA will also evaluate information such as:

  • How often you visit your doctor
  • Whether you have followed your doctor’s instructions
  • What treatments you have tried
  • What factors contribute to your pain or exacerbate it
  • The medications you have been prescribed for your spinal condition, the dosage and side effects
  • Information about the pain you experience, including where the pain is located, how long it lasts and its intensity
  • Your activities of daily living
  • How the pain affects your activities of daily living

Back Conditions Likely Approved for Disability Benefits

Some back conditions are more likely to be approved than others because they are easier to document in the way SSA requires. These conditions include:

Nerve Root Compression

Nerve root compression is caused when a bulging or herniated disc, spinal fracture or arthritis imposes direct pressure on a nerve. Common symptoms of nerve root compression include:

  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Pain
  • Muscle wasting

Spinal Stenosis

This medical condition is caused by a narrowing of the spinal column, which imposes pressure on the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis symptoms can cause pain, numbness and weakness. Additionally, people with severe spinal stenosis in the upper spine can experience bowel and bladder incontinence.


This medical condition is caused when the membrane that protects your spinal cord becomes inflamed. Common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Weakness
  • Pain
  • Electrical sensations in your legs
  • Loss of bowel and bladder function

Supporting Medical Evidence Needed

To establish your back or spinal condition and the functional limitations it imposes, you will need supporting medical evidence such as:

  • MRIs
  • CTs
  • X-rays
  • Physician notes
  • Physical therapy notes
  • Notes from chiropractors
  • Medical test results
  • Myelography reports
  • Test results from a comprehensive spinal exam

Orthopedic notes from a detailed physical exam may also be considered, including testing of your muscle strength, range of motion, reflexes, sensation and your ability to bend, walk, squat and rise.

Consult with a Lawyer Now

If your back condition prevents you from being able to work, we recommend that you consult with a Phoenix Social Security Disability lawyer at Dayes Law Firm. We may be able to help you with every aspect of your claim, including filing out the application on your behalf. This includes making sure to include how your back pain impacts your ability to work and affects your quality of life outside of work.

Contact us today to set up a free, no-obligation consultation. There are no upfront costs for our legal services unless we help you obtain the benefits you need.

We look forward to helping you. Call 1-800-503-2000 now.