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Can I Continue Working with Osteoarthritis?

Social Security Disability Benefits for Osteoarthritis

If you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and the pain and stiffness resulting from the disease make it impossible for you to work, you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. The gradual loss of cartilage from your joints causes osteoarthritis. Cartilage is a tough tissue located between that joints that provides much needed cushioning. Without cartilage, your bones will rub together causing painful bone spurs and cysts making the condition continue to worsen.

Your “load-bearing” joints, such as your hips, feet, spine, hands, and knees are usually impacted with the disease starting in one joint then spreading to other joints. Osteoarthritis can be a primary or a secondary condition. If it is a secondary condition, you should include the primary condition and its symptoms in your claim to help support your case. Osteoarthritis is diagnosed by ongoing symptoms, x-rays, scans, and even blood tests that show an elevated inflammation rate.

How Your Ability to Work is Impacted

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease because the condition worsens over time. It can be a very painful condition that limits your functioning and impacts your mobility. Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that requires ongoing medical care. Because of the severity of some cases, joint replacement surgery is sometimes necessary and you may even have to be hospitalized because of your condition.

Because your weight-bearing joints are affected, you may not be able to stand or sit for long periods without having to reposition. If your back, hips, or knees are involved, you may not be able to lift, bend, or squat repeatedly.

Having your hands, wrists, or elbows involved can also limit your ability to grasp, lift, carry, or reach. As the condition advances and your joints worsen, your mobility can be impacted even more. You may require the assistance of a cane or walker for walking as your condition advances. Pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs are often prescribed to treat the condition. Pain medication can cause drowsiness or dizziness and the anti-inflammatory drugs can cause gastrointestinal issues.

Your Osteoarthritis may qualify you for disability benefits

How Your Ability to Perform Specific Jobs Are Affected

If your back or legs are impacted by osteoarthritis you won’t be able to stand long periods so that will prevent you from working construction, manufacturing, and retail jobs. Pain medications can cause drowsiness and dizziness that will prevent you from working with heavy machinery, driving a commercial vehicle, or being a machine operator.

Osteoarthritis in the knees, hips, or back can keep you from bending, squatting, or lifting items, which keeps you from working in a warehouse facility, maintain employment as a stock associate in a store, or working in a shipping and receiving department.

When your wrists, hands, or elbows are impacted by arthritis, your fingering skills may be impacted and you may find yourself unable to write regularly, use a keyboard, or grasp small items which can keep you from working data entry, office management and recordkeeping, and from doing assembly work in factory settings. As other joints become affected, your limitations may be greatly impacted.

The Disability Application Process

The Social Security disability process is complicated and it can take months to be notified if your claim has been approved or denied. Your claim can be denied twice, but appeals can be filed both times. The final step in the process is to request a hearing before an administrative law judge for a ruling on your case. If you are denied at this level, you would have to start the process all over again. The key to a successful claim is providing detailed medical records and thorough documentation about your limitations and restrictions. You need to provide test results that show the diagnosis and the severity of your condition.

You can start your claim online at or by calling 1-800-772-1213. A visit to your local SSA office can start the process in person. Because of the complexity of the claims process, having a disability attorney to represent you can significantly improve your chances of being awarded benefits. An attorney knows what documentation you need to prove your case and help convince Disability Determination Services that you are unable to work.