Common Causes of Knee Pain in Social Security Disability Cases

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 10: 00
Written by Joni B. Bailey

If you are experiencing knee pain that interferes with your ability to work, it could be caused by one of these six conditions.  Review this list of possibilities with your doctor the next time you are seen for knee pain.  It could make all the difference in your Social Security Disability case.

1. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common cause of chronic joint pain.  Approximately 27 million Americans live with osteoarthritis every day.  

Normally, joints in the body have a layer of cartilage that shields the two bones from rubbing together while the joint is in motion.  But in people with osteoarthritis, that protective cartilage breaks down over time, becoming thinner and thinner and finally exposing the raw bones to each other.  This causes it to be difficult and painful to move the joint.  Often, joints often swell and become inflamed.  

Read more about osteoarthritis here:

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is actually an autoimmune disorder in which the body's defense system mistakenly attacks its own cells.  The small joints in the hands and wrists are the places most commonly affected, but other joints, such as the knees, can be affected too.  Pain, stiffness, swelling, and limited motion are the primary symptoms.

More than 1.3 million Americans live with rheumatoid arthritis, about 75 percent of whom are women.  While onset can begin at any age, RA most commonly begins in people between 40 to 60 years old.  

Even though the outcome is the same (stiffness, pain, and limited motion), rheumatoid arthritis feels different from osteoarthritis.  With RA, stiffness is often worst in the morning and may last for hours.  Other additional symptoms include low energy, low fevers, loss of appetite, and rheumatoid nodules, which are firm lumps that grow underneath the skin.

Studies have shown that treatment for RA can lessen the need for joint replacement later in life, and that early treatment produces the best results.

Read more about Rheumatoid arthritis here:

3. Post-traumatic Arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis is a common form of osteoarthritis.  It is called "post-traumatic" because it is caused by an injury or other form of trauma.  It can affect any joint in the body, including the knees.

According to the CDC, approximately 12 percent of osteoarthritis cases are post-traumatic.  If you have experienced a knee injury in the past, for example, the risk that you will develop osteoarthritis at some point in your life is 57 percent.

Some specific events thought to lead to post-traumatic arthritis include falls, athletic injuries, automobile accidents, and joint surgeries - but any type of physical trauma can contribute to post-traumatic arthritis.

Read more about post-traumatic arthritis here:

4. Gout

Gout is a very painful form of arthritis which is caused by an excess build up of uric acid in the body.  The excess uric acid causes problems such as:

  • Uric acid crystal deposits in joints, especially the big toes
  • Lumps under the skin
  • Kidney stones
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Heat in the affected area
  • Joint stiffness

Your risk factor for developing gout is increased if you...

  • Have family members with gout
  • Are male
  • Are overweight
  • Drink too much alcohol
  • Often eat certain meats (see a list here)
  • Have an enzyme defect 
  • Work or live in an environment with high lead exposure
  • Have had an organ transplant
  • Take certain medicines such as diuretics, aspirin, cyclosporine, or levodopa
  • Take the vitamin niacin.

Read more about gout here:

5. Osteonecrosis

Osteonecrosis, literally "bone death", results from a temporary or permanent loss of blood supply to bones.  It is also known as aseptic necrosis, avascular necrosis, and ischemic necrosis.  

It is not always clear what causes osteonecrosis, but some known causes are:

  • Long term use of steroid medications such as prednisone
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Physical injury
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Organ transplants (especially kidneys)

Read more about osteonecrosis here:


6. Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic condition that typically occurs along with skin psoriasis, but has been known to occur alone, especially in those who have relatives with psoriasis.  It causes joint pain and swelling that can lead to damage of the joint.  Early treatment can prevent joint damage.

Psoriatic arthritis is often misdiagnosed as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, or osteoarthritis.  If you or a relative have psoriasis and you are experiencing joint pain and swelling, talk with your doctor to rule out this possibility.

Read more about psoriatic arthritis here:

The big question:  "If my knee pain is diagnosed as one of these conditions, am I automatically guaranteed to win my Social Security Disability claim?"

No - in order to win your Social Security Disability claim, you will need to provide medical imaging that shows stiffness or fusion, bony destruction, or narrowing of the joint space of your knee(s).  Your Southern Illinois Disability attorney can help clarify what type of medical imaging is typically expected by the judge.

Additionally, you will also need to prove that you are impaired to walk without using an assistive device and sustaining a reasonable pace while walking a sufficient distance in order to carry out your daily activities such as going to and from school or work.  (Source:  Again, your Southern Illinois Social Security Disability representative can help you put together the evidence necessary to prove your condition to the judge.  

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the causes of knee pain that can lead to a disability diagnosis.  However, it is a useful starting point you can discuss with your doctor if your knees are failing and you do not know why.  If your knee pain has led to diminished work performance or the loss of your job, you should start collecting the medical evidence and documentation for your Social Security Disability claim as soon as possible. 


Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability attorney.

social security disability lawyer in murphysboro, il

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