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How to Describe and Estimate Pain in Your Testimony

  • Published: August 5, 2011

The Social Security Administration bases your disability determination largely on your description of your pain. No matter what level of the application or appeals process you are at, you will need to be able to provide detailed estimates regarding the frequency, duration, and severity of your pain and other symptoms.

When describing the frequency of your pain, you must not give vague answer such as “once in a while.” “Once in a while” could mean anything from once a week to once a year. Provide a solid time frame for your estimate: “A few times a week” is much better than “sometimes.” If your pain is irregular, you must take the time to find a way to convey an accurate idea of how often you’re in pain—how many pain-free weeks do you have in a month or a year? You’ll also want to be able to estimate how long your pain lasts each time it comes back, especially if the durations vary. If you don’t think you’ll be able to give an estimate like this, you may want to start keeping a journal about your pain.

You will also be asked to describe the level of intensity of your pain. Be prepared to provide details, such as whether or not the intensity of your pain or other symptoms fluctuates. Do you have good and bad days? Be prepared to describe not only what your good and bad days feel like, but also how frequently you have good or bad days and how quickly your pain appears and disappears.

An effective way to communicate the severity of your pain to the Social Security Administration is the 1-10 scale your doctor has probably at some point asked you to use. However, it is very important that you use this scale correctly and do not exaggerate. A 10 on this scale should be a level of pain of such intensity and severity that you are unable to move. A pain level of 10 leaves people in the fetal position, writhing in pain. There are few disabled people whose pain approaches a 10, but most disabled people do not have that level of pain.

There are many such details that go into a successful disability claim. If you have been denied benefits, you may need an experienced Ocala disability attorney to help you with the appeals process.

Claudeth Henry

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