Back Injuries

Having much in common with spinal injuries, back injuries can be painful and debilitating. Although the majority of injuries are minor, they often lead to further complications. Worse, minor back injuries tend to go for long periods of time without being recognized, which increases the likelihood of worsening the injury. Their causes are almost always mundane; any repetitive lifting, bending, or twisting motions that occur over a normal day can lead to back pain later. Back pain is often directly caused by improper form or overexertion during work and exercise. Failing to stretch, taking on too much weight, or having poor posture can lead to muscle fatigue and injury.

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Chronic back pain is a symptom of conditions that keep many people from working at their jobs. The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) listing of impairments include entries on the back and spine. Even if a back injury seems light, it may be important to get examined by a doctor to see if it could cause further harm. This would also be a good place to start documenting your diagnoses and treatments with your doctor. When the SSA asks for documentation about your back injury, they’re looking for documented evidence from “acceptable medical sources” that clearly shows the start and length of your treatment, as well as information about current treatments. The SSA expects your condition to keep you out of work for no less than one year of work if you are to qualify for disability.

Causes and Prevention

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems; it affects as many as eight out of every ten people. Typical back injuries include sprains and strains, resulting from physical activity. Injuries are made worse by congenital conditions, poor physical fitness, smoking, and diseases like arthritis; any pain persisting for more than three months is considered chronic and should be examined by a doctor. Back pain is often caused by mechanical problems—i.e., disk degeneration, muscle spasms, and tight or tense muscles. These mechanical problems can compound themselves and lead to more problems in the future, for instance, if the abdominal muscles aren’t properly activated in normal sitting posture, then this puts an extra burden on the back muscles which causes them to tighten or even spasm. As the person tries to compensate for pain, their posture becomes even worse—causing even worse pain later. While most back pain is treatable with over-the-counter methods, it can develop into a more serious problem if repeated or ignored.

Minor back pain can be prevented by regular exercise and proper stretching. While exertion can lead to back pain, a sedentary lifestyle makes things worse. Adding an exercise regimen (including 150 minutes of cardio and at least 2 weight training days) to your weekly schedule is a sure way to avoid most causes of back pain as long as the exercise is regular and limited to your ability. Back pain can be an outward sign of more serious problems, like fractured vertebrae or a herniated disc, these can be diagnosed by x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans and may require long-term treatment and care.

Symptoms

Is my poor posture causing my back pain or does the pain lead to my bad posture? Or is it a little bit of both? It can be difficult to decide whether something is really the cause or the symptom when talking about back injuries. Minor back injuries like strains and sprains result in acute pain, muscle spasms, and swelling. These can be treated with over-the-counter pain killers, anti-inflammatories, and hot or cold packs. (For more info on treating acute back pain, go here). However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, then you should see a doctor right away.

  • Numbness or tingling
  • Severe pain that does not improve with rest
  • Pain as a result of an injury
  • Pain with: -Trouble urinating -Weakness -Numbness in the legs -Fever -Weight loss

Back Injuries and the SSA

Most people experience back pain at some point in their lives. It is not always preventable; people in the 40–50 age range experience lower back pain as a consequence of getting older. Even evidence of serious or intense pain will not be enough for the Social Security Administration if you cannot prove that the pain is chronic and debilitating. Their definition of a musculoskeletal (bones and muscles) impairment requires that the injury itself, or pain from the injury, cause a loss of function like walking or moving your arms and legs normally.

(1) Inability to ambulate (walk) effectively means an extreme limitation of the ability to walk; i.e., an impairment(s) that interferes very seriously with the individual’s ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities.

(2) To ambulate (walk) effectively, individuals must be capable of sustaining a reasonable walking pace over a sufficient distance to be able to carry out activities of daily living. They must have the ability to travel without companion assistance to and from a place of employment or school.

(3) Inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively means an extreme loss of function of both upper extremities; i.e., an impairment(s) that interferes very seriously with the individual’s ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities. To use their upper extremities effectively, individuals must be capable of sustaining such functions as reaching, pushing, pulling, grasping, and fingering to be able to carry out activities of daily living

The SSA is going to be looking, very closely for these things when they consider your claim. The SSA gets a lot of claims involving back pain, so it is important to properly document when it starts, how long it lasts, your diagnoses, and your treatment history. This is why it’s so important to consult a knowledgeable Utah SSDI attorney before making your claim. All the evidence needs to be collected and prepared and then presented in a way that will best represent you; without an attorney this will be very difficult.

References

Social Security Administration Musculoskeletal System Listing

Back Pain Fast Facts

Mayo Clinic

Medline Plus

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