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Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD): How to Qualify for Social Security Disability

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), also known as complex regional pain syndrome) is a disorder of the nervous system characterized by chronic severe pain. RSD most commonly develops after a traumatic injury, surgery, stroke, or heart attack.  The symptoms of RSD often attack an upper or lower extremity, and the signs are often characterized as being out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury.  It is believed that RSD is caused by a dysfunctional interaction between the central and peripheral nervous system in addition to inappropriate inflammatory responses.

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The symptoms of RSD include constant burning or throbbing pain, sensitivity to touch or cold, swelling, changes in skin temperature or color, altered skin texture, joint stiffness, muscle spasm or atrophy, and impaired mobility of the affected area.  In some cases, the symptoms of RSD will spread from the affected area to other parts of the body.  There may also be a psychological component to the condition in which emotional stress can cause a worsening of the symptoms.

RSD is not a listed impairment within Social Security’s Blue Book listings; therefore, a claimant cannot be found disabled based only on the diagnosis of the condition.  However, depending on the associated characteristics of a claimant’s RSD, their situation must be compared with any applicable SSA listing to determine whether there is a medical equivalence.

Even if a claimant’s RSD does not medically equal the criteria for any specific listing, they may still be found disabled based on the physical and mental limitations caused by their condition.  For instance, a person suffering from severe constant pain in their legs or arms would be significantly limited in their ability to perform the essential work activities of walking, standing, sitting, and using their arms for repetitive movements.  Depending on the severity of these limitations, a claimant may be precluded entirely from performing any full-time, sustained employment.

Premier Disability Services, LLC has extensive experience assisting claimants who suffer from RSD obtain Social Security Disability benefits.  If you suffer from RSD and you are unable to work, please contact our office for a free evaluation.