Joint dysfunction is the gross anatomical deformity, i.e., subluxation, contracture, or bony or fibrous ankylosis, and chronic pain and stiffness of any joint, with limitation of motion, instability, or abnormal motion of the affected joint(s). Findings on medically appropriate imaging will show joint space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis.
B. General information
A joint is the point where two or more bones meet. Joint pain can arise from any joint. It can be mild, causing some soreness each time you move your joint, or severe, making it impossible to use your joint at all.
Joint pain has many causes, including injury, inflammation, age, infection, and cancer. Medical diagnoses associated with joint pain include osteoporosis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, bursitis, lupus, and gout.
Joint instability is due to a lack of support in a joint, which puts that joint at risk for becoming displaced or dislocated, leading to injury. When joint instability develops, one or more of the systems that normally stabilize a joint fail to work properly. The joint can be subject to displacement, meaning that it is pushed out of place. It also can be subject to dislocation. Both can be very painful and can lead to tears in muscles and ligaments. People with joint instability in key joints can experience injuries, such as falls, as a result of not being able to balance safely. Sometimes, joint instability is caused by congenital or genetic conditions.
Joint pain most often occurs in the knees, shoulders, neck, hips, elbows, wrists, and ankles. The severity of joint pain ranges from mild soreness to immobilizing pain, and it can last a few weeks (acute) or for months or years (chronic). Joint pain is rarely an emergency. Most cases of mild joint pain can be successfully managed at home.
The Social Security Administration recognizes that severe joint pain can be disabling and that the major dysfunction of a joint may result in an inability to sustain full time work for a year or more.
C. Social Security Medical Listing 1.02 – Major dysfunction of a joint(s)
To qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Administration’s Medical Listing 1.02, your joint pain must be due to a deformity in a joint. Appropriate medical imaging, such as an MRI, must show either joint space narrowing, ankylosis (when your joints fuse together), or the destruction of bone. You also must have a history of joint pain and stiffness, as well as a loss of motion in your joint.
If the deformity is in your hip, knee, or ankle joint, you must be unable to walk well enough to carry out the normal activities of daily life. An inability to ambulate efficiently means you need a walker, two crutches, or two canes; you can’t use standard public transportation; you can’t shop or run other errands without someone’s help; or you can’t climb a few steps at a reasonable pace with the use of a hand rail.
If the deformity is in your shoulder, elbow, wrist, or hand, it must be present in both arms and result in an inability to use your hands effectively in performing the activities of daily living.
If your joint dysfunction does not meet the severity of the medical listing, it is possible to qualify for disability benefits by equaling the requirements of another listing. You will need to make sure that your doctor’s notes include exactly how your joint problems limit your functioning and that your records contain appropriate medical imaging results.
Your representative can help you determine whether your joint impairment is severe enough for you to qualify for Social Security Administration disability benefits.