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How to use a pain diary to get SSDI benefits


A lot of people who file for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits suffer from painful, chronic conditions – but they mistakenly assume that the Social Security Administration will automatically factor their pain into things when making a decision on the claim.

That’s not actually how it works. Even though it may seem evident that something like rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or herniated discs in your back are painful and limiting, pain is a subjective experience. One person might shrug off pains that would simply flatten another.

Does that mean your pain doesn’t count? Not at all. However, you need to make sure that your pain is clearly documented over time. That lends the air of veracity to your claims.

A carefully kept pain diary can help win your case

As soon as you suspect you may have to file for SSDI, you need to begin to document everything you can about the pain your condition causes and how it limits you. In your pain diary, include information like:

  • The type of pain you’re feeling (burning, aching, stabbing or something else)
  • Where the pain is located, whether mostly in one area or diffuse
  • What steps you take to manage the pain (laying down, hot shower, medication and so on)
  • How long the pain lasts (whether it comes and goes or is continuous for hours or days)
  • How severe the pain is to you (using the 1-10 scale the doctor’s office uses)
  • What may have triggered the pain (lifting something, stress, the weather and other things)
  • How your pain is limiting you, including whether you had to sleep it off, take a day from work or cancel your plans

Take this with you to every doctor’s visit about your condition and discuss it with your doctor to ask if there’s something else you can or should be doing – and make sure your doctor copies all of the new pages for your file.

Making sure that your doctor is aware of your pain and your efforts to control it can help create a convincing narrative that shows that your pain is real. Unfortunately, valid SSDI claims get denied all the time. If you want your disability claim to be approved, legal guidance may be best.

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