Muscle, back, and joint disorders are the most common reasons why working-age adults seek Social Security disability benefits. In 2018, for example, 37.6% of approved Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) claims were for muscle, back, and joint disorders. These disorders become more common as people age, and many of these issues are accelerated by a lifetime of manual labor. 

SSDI Claims for Arthritis

Arthritis is a general term used to refer to the inflammation of one or more joints. It can be caused by age, infection, or trauma to the joint. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis) and rheumatoid arthritis (a type of autoimmune disorder).

SSDI claims for arthritis are typically evaluated under the Blue Book listing 1.04 Disorders of the Spine or Blue Book listing 14.09 Inflammatory Arthritis. These listings require applicants to have symptoms such as muscle weakness, sensory or reflex loss, and difficulty walking, sitting, or performing other activities of daily living.

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SSDI Claims for Back Pain

Back pain can make it difficult to sit, stand, walk, bend, or lift—which disqualifies an applicant from many manual labor jobs. However, to be approved for disability benefits for back pain, you need to have more than your own statement that your pain is interfering with your ability to work. X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and EMG (nerve conduction) tests can establish a medical cause for your pain and provide persuasive evidence of impairment.

SSDI claims for back pain are typically evaluated under the Blue Book listing 1.04 Disorders of the Spine. This section requires a diagnosis of nerve root compression, arachnoiditis, or lumbar spinal stenosis. Specific symptoms listed in the Blue Book include the need for changes in position or posture more than once every 2 hours, limitation of motion in the spine, and an inability to ambulate effectively.

SSDI Claims for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome affecting muscles and soft tissue that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by chronic fatigue, cognitive impairment, and mood issues. It is more common in women than men and often accompanied by temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, tension headaches, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), depression, and anxiety.

Getting approved for SSDI benefits with fibromyalgia can be complicated. There are no diagnostic tests to support a claim, and the causes of the condition are still not fully understood. Since the condition is not listed in the Blue Book used to evaluate impairments, your doctor must have ruled out other diseases such as lupus, hypothyroidism, and multiple sclerosis via lab tests or X-rays. You must also have documented evidence showing tender points in at least 11 of 18 areas of the body and repeated occurrences of six or more fibromyalgia symptoms such as cognitive problems, non-restorative sleep, abdominal pain, dizziness, and headache.

The longer your medical record shows fibromyalgia symptoms and treatment, the stronger your case will be, and the more likely it will become that you’ll be found to have a medically determinable impairment (MDI). If you meet the MDI test, you’ll complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment to evaluate how your condition affects your ability to continue working.

Your Diagnosis Isn’t the Only Factor

When you’re applying for SSDI benefits, it’s important to remember that your medical diagnosis isn’t the only factor in determining if your application will be approved. Other factors include:


Older applicants are more likely to be approved for benefits, with people over age 50 having the strongest chance for approval.


If you have an education that qualifies you for a sedentary position, you are less likely to be approved for benefits.

Work experience.

If your past work experience includes certain types of work that could accommodate your physical limitations, your application can be denied.

Current work.

SSDI is for people who have conditions that prevent them from holding substantial gainful employment. If you are currently working and earning more than a poverty-level wage, you won’t qualify for benefits regardless of your specific impairment. However, once you’ve been approved for benefits, there are allowances for a trial work period that can help you return to work if your condition improves.

Have You Or A Loved One Been Denied Social Security Disability Benefits?

If you or a loved on has been denied Social Security Disability Benefits you need to speak with an experienced SSD attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Virginia Beach office directly at 757.490.3500 to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk and Suffolk.