Social Security Disability for Back Pain

By Thomas King
Social Security Disability, Back Pain

Social Security disability claims based on back pain are common. There are essentially three ways that you can win a Social Security disability claim based on back pain: meet a specific listing, demonstrate the requisite residual functional capacity, or meet a grid rule.

Meeting a Listing

The Code of Federal Regulations is a book published by the federal government that sets out detailed listings of various medical impairments. If your disability meets one of these detailed listings, then you are presumed to be unable to work. All listings for back pain fall under Section 1.00 Musculoskeletal System. The specific requirements for these listings can be found at the Section 1.00 Musculoskeletal System link provided below.

Meeting the Residual Functional Capacity

If you do not meet a specific listing, you may still receive disability benefits due to back pain if you can show the requisite residual functional capacity. The residual functional capacity is a determination made by an administrative law judge after considering all relevant factors. Relevant factors include your age, education and health. For a detailed listing of the relevant factors considered, see the link below titled "20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2."

Meeting a Grid Rule

The final way that you may receive Social Security disability benefits due to back pain is by meeting a grid rule. To even consider this option, you must be at least 50 years old. The specific factors to be considered in meeting a grid rule are again outlined in the link titled ""20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2." However, whether or not you meet a grid rule essentially comes down to whether or not the administrative law judge determines that it would be nearly impossible for you to obtain a job given your level of education, skills and health problems.


Presenting your case and receiving a judgment can be a lengthy process. If your back pain is severe and your need for disability benefits is desperate, you can request an expedited disability hearing. If the request is granted, you will reduce the length of this process greatly.


There are several possible strategies for obtaining disability benefits due to back pain. Often the administrative law judge needs to hear specific facts from you to make a decision in your favor. Attorneys who specialize in disability law know these facts and know the most effective ways to present them. Thus, whenever possible, you should obtain an attorney to advocate on your behalf. Depending on your financial situation, you may be able to obtain free legal help from a legal clinic. To find this information, you should contact your State Bar (link provided below).

About the Author

Thomas King is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law where he served as managing editor of the "Pittsburgh Journal of Environmental and Public Health Law." He currently lives in Aberdeen, Washington where he writes and practices law.