How to Describe Pain to a Disability Judge (The Right Way)

How to describe pain to a disability judge? Find actionable advice on describing pain and symptoms at your disability hearing.

Elderly Man with Shoulder Pain - How to Describe Pain to a Disability Judge

Many wonder how best to describe their pain to an Administrative Law Judge during a Disability hearing. Here are some tips and tricks to testify effectively about your pain.

How to Describe Pain to a Disability Judge

At the forefront of a Social Security Disability hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is the precise description of your pain.

Staying objective during your testimony and focusing on facts rather than emotions is essential.

Here are four ways to describe pain to a disability judge:

1. Use Descriptive Language: Go Beyond “It Hurts”

Descriptive language can provide the ALJ with a clearer picture of your pain.

    Here are specific examples to illustrate your pain:

    • Include detailed explanations: “My feet hurt so much in the mornings that getting up and using the bathroom is tough.”
    • Compare pain to common experiences: “It feels like a burning iron on my skin” or “It’s a constant throbbing, similar to a relentless toothache.”
    • Contrast your pain with a time before the disability: “Before my knee began hurting, I could walk ten miles a day effortlessly. Now, walking even a block is challenging due to the knee pain.”

    2. Describe the Frequency, Duration, and Intensity of Your Pain

    Ensure the ALJ understands the regularity of your pain.

      For instance, “My back hurts intensely every day, making me stop all activities in the afternoon and lie flat on the ground for at least 1-2 hours.”

      3. Explain the Impact of Your Pain on Daily Activities

      Clarify how pain affects your daily life. Describe difficulties in everyday tasks, the need for breaks, or issues sitting/standing for extended periods.

      For example, “Shoulder pain makes it impossible for me to reach into the dishwasher. My spouse now handles this chore due to the sharp pain it causes me.”

      4. Words to Describe Pain during Your Disability Hearing

      Enhance your pain description by using varied terms such as:


      Also Read: How Can I Increase My Chances of Getting Disability? (9 Ways)

      How to Prepare for a Disability Hearing

      Prepare by familiarizing yourself with your medical records, medications, and upcoming medical appointments.

      Clearly communicate the degree and pattern of your pain to the Disability Judge.

      1. Subjective vs. Objective Pain: Know the Difference

      Here are the top differences between subjective and objective pain:

      • Subjective Pain: Patients must rate their pain on a scale of 1-10.
      • Objective Pain: Primarily based on behavioral observations by the medical team and the patient’s self-reported pain.

      2. Gather Medical Evidence to Support Your Claims

      Collect all relevant medical records from your providers to give the Disability Judge a comprehensive understanding of your condition and its effects on your life.

      3. Keep a Pain Diary: Why and How

      Maintaining a daily pain diary can offer insights into the patterns and triggers of your pain.

      Also Read: How to Win a Social Security Disability Claim

      5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Describing Pain to a Judge

      Words matter! Here are tips on what not to say or do at your disability hearing:

      1. Exaggerating or Underplaying Your Pain: Be candid and accurate.
      2. Being Inconsistent in Your Statements: Ensure your claims are consistent throughout.
      3. Failing to Mention Treatments and Their Effects: Detail your treatment regimen.
      4. Overgeneralizing Limitations: Be specific about your abilities and limitations.
      5. Downplaying Pain During Your Hearing: Present an honest account of your pain.

      Ease Your Hearing Stress: Consult a Disability Lawyer Today!

      The attorneys at Evans Disability are seasoned in representing individuals before Disability Judges.

      Call us today at (855) 503-0101. Let’s start your disability claim journey.

      How to Describe Pain to a Disability Judge FAQ

      Answers to common questions about describing pain to an ALJ.

      What Is an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)?

      An ALJ oversees Disability Hearings and asks questions to determine your eligibility for disability benefits.

      What Is the Role of an Administrative Law Judge?

      ALJs assess whether you fit the legal definition of disability.

      What Is the Disability Judge Looking For in Your Testimony?

      They evaluate if you meet the disability criteria, your adherence to medical treatments, and how the disability affects your work and daily life.

      How Long Does It Take for a Disability Judge to Make a Decision?

      Typically, a decision can take up to three months.