For many of our clients, this problem began gradually and over many years until it finally became impossible to perform basic work activities. Shoulder pain limits you from reaching onto shelves to restock inventory. It limits you from reaching to grab that critical item found in the far back cabinet. It challenges you to lift everything in your workplace with your only good arm. Many of our clients experienced a rapid decline in their non-dominant arm (due to compensating and overuse) after they developed pain in the dominant arm and shoulder.

Regardless of the diagnosis causing your shoulder pain, a strong case involving this medical condition typically charts the following course:

  • Referrals: Establish care with an orthopedic specialist and a pain management specialist. Your primary care physician can refer you to one.
  • Symptoms: Tell all your providers what you cannot do in your everyday life with your hand(s) because of this problem.
  • Compliance: Take your pain medications every day. Find a system to make this work for you. (If the SSA sees any signs of non-compliance in your medical records, then they will severely discount the severity of this condition.)
  • Escalate your Treatment: Ask your doctor about these procedures:
    • X-ray, MRI or CT-scan. The MRI or CT-scan could be more expensive, but they are more precise imaging that will show more about what’s causing your pain than just an x-ray.
    • Physical therapy. Go to all the sessions if you get one—do not miss those sessions or quit, even if you feel like physical therapy is not working for you.
    • Trigger point injections or corticosteroid injections.
      • The Doctor will ask about how much relief this provided. Emphasize what you are still unable to do, not just how much relief you felt.
    • Discuss surgical options. Whether or not you get surgery is your choice. Obviously going through with it will make a strong impression on your judge about how severe this problem is for you. But even the doctor writing down in the medical records that he/she recommended the surgery will create a strong impression too.
  • Medical Opinion: Ask your doctor to complete the Treating Source Statement (Packard Law Firm provides this).

written by: Jacob Hugentobler, Hearing Attorney

Image Credit: Dr. Steven Thomas & Dr. Gregory Bigler, Shoulder Arthritis Treatment, Thomas & Bigler Knee & Shoulder Institute, available at

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