The Problem of Chronic Pain: What Do You Do?

If you are suffering from chronic pain, it can affect every aspect of your life. Chronic pain can be caused by any number of conditions, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and migraines. Degenerative disc disease in your spine is a common cause of chronic pain that causes disabling limitations of function.

Chronic pain can devastate your life. It can cause disabling limitations of function that can completely prevent you from working or even performing simple activities of daily living. Even though chronic pain has a physical cause, one of the main effects it has on you in terms of your ability to work is actually mental. Pain causes interruptions to concentration. Even the most simple job requires some amount of concentration. If you cannot concentrate enough to complete even simple tasks in a timely manner, then you could be considered disabled that for that reason.

Chronic pain means more than just disability. It can be depressing. It can dampen your ability to hope. For that reason, it is critical to see a mental health provider. A mental health care provider can teach you strategies to cope but can also be a valuable resource in proving your limitations. If you are experiencing interruptions to concentration from your pain, a mental health care provider is in a unique position to acknowledge your inability to focus due to your chronic pain and depression.

The Social Security Administration considers the following factors in determining the extent to which you are limited by your chronic pain:

  • The location, duration, frequency and intensity of the individual’s pain (or other symptoms)
  • Factors that precipitate and aggravate the symptoms
  • The type, dosage, effectiveness and side effects of any medication the individual takes or has taken to alleviate pain (or other symptoms)
  • Treatment, other than medication, the individual receives or has received for relief of pain (or other symptoms)
  • Any measures, other than treatment, the individual uses or has used to relieve pain (or other symptoms) (e.g., lying flat on his/her back, standing for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or sleeping on a board)
  • Any other factors concerning the individual’s functional limitations and restrictions due to pain (or other symptoms)

Be sure to let your doctor know the effect that chronic pain has on your daily life. It is your doctor’s opinion regarding the severity of your limitations of function that will get you disability benefits. If your doctor does not know how bad it is and what your life is like, she cannot tell the judge. Also, be sure to comply with all of your doctor’s advice. Ultimately, your doctor must have confidence that you are credible and sincere in your complaints because there is no test for how much you hurt. Your persistence in exploring every option to help yourself, including compliance with recommended treatment, is usually what it takes to instill confidence in your doctor that really do hurt.