Facts about Allodynia and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1. Those who experience allodynia can experience severe pain sensation simply from clothing, air movement (such as a breeze or wind), or a light touch on the arm.
2. The name allodynia means other pain. Allodynia is abnormal pain that occurs when something not normally painful causes the individual to have the sensation of pain.
3. Individuals can experience allodynia in three ways. Mechanical (otherwise known as tactile) allodynia has two separate types of sensations causing pain. Static mechanical allodynia occurs when light touch or pressure to the skin causes pain. Dynamic mechanical allodynia occurs when brushing the skin causes pain. Thermal allodynia is separate from mechanical allodynia, because it is a response to hot and cold, occurring when mild temperatures cause pain.
4. Allodynia is a symptom of other medical disorders and conditions. Types of neuropathy can cause abnormal pain response in the form of allodynia. Postherpetic neuralgia, a condition that can follow a herpes virus and affects the skin, can often include allodynia as a symptom. fibromyalgia is a largely misunderstood condition that causes widespread pain, including types of allodynia. Migraines, a type of severe headache, can also cause allodynia, probably due to the hypersensitivity that accompanies migraines.
5. The pain from allodynia is believed to be caused by abnormal messages sent between the neurons in cells and the spinal cord, which receives feedback from areas of the body and sends response signals, such as pain and other sensations.
6. There are a variety of pharmaceutical medications available to help treat allodynia, including several opioids. Most act to help correct the perception of pain to normal levels. There are some drugs that are effective for allodynia generally, and others that are specific to the different types of allodynia. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, over the counter medications often taken for occasional aches and pains, can also be used to help treat the pain associated with allodynia.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.
This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).
Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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