Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursae, small sacs of fluid that are present in all of your joints, that can be disabling. Normal bursae allow for muscles to slide across the bones smoothly and painlessly. For individuals with bursitis, movement of the joints becomes painful, because the bursae that are meant to protect us from pain become inflamed. Every time a joint is moved that has bursitis, the already inflamed bursae gets more irritated.
Bursitis most often occurs in the elbows, knees, shoulders, and hips but can occur at any joint. Symptoms of bursitis include joint pain, stiffness and achiness when you move, and swelling and redness over the joint. Chronic bursitis can lead to calcium deposits within the bursa, called "calcific bursitis."
Bursitis is commonly caused by repetitive movement and excessive pressure to the joint. However, underlying conditions can also cause bursitis, including inflammatory arthritis, gout, scoliosis, and other chronic systematic diseases.
In order to qualify to receive Social Security Disability benefits for a disabling medical condition, you must show either that your conditions limits you from activity so much that you can't return to work or that you meet the requirements of a disability listing from Social Security's "blue book" of impairment listings.
There is no specific listing for bursitis in the Social Security blue book, but if the bursitis is severe enough, you may meet the requirements of the disability listing for joint dysfunction.
If the bursitis is caused by a partial dislocation of a joint, such as a partial knee dislocation, or causes bony or fibrous ankylosis, which is a partial or full fusing of bones at the joints or fusing of the joints themselves, and causes chronic pain that limits your ability to walk or use your arms effectively, you may qualify for disability benefits under this section.
In order to meet this listing, your medical evidence must include medical imaging that shows joint dislocation or ankylosis. Ankylosis can also be diagnosed through the use of lab tests. As to the limitations of movement in your legs or arms, this can be shown through your physician's notes and accounts from others who can speak about your physical limitations.
If you aren't able to show that your bursitis meets the requirements of joint dysfunction listing, you may be able to receive Social Security benefits by demonstrating that the physical limitations from bursitis prevents you from returning to any job. For those who are suffering from bursitis, the physical demands of working may be too much to handle.
In determining if you can work any job, Social Security uses a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form that catalogs your physical and mental limitations. Social Security considers your RFC form, as well as your age, education, and work experience, when making the final determination as to whether you can return to any job.
Bursitis may cause walking and moving your arms to be very painful. Repetitive motions are also very painful and may worsen the bursitis. Other physical requirements of work, including lifting and carrying items or even standing may not be possible for those with bursitis. Any limitations such as these should appear in your RFC, but Social Security will include them in your RFC only if your doctor has recorded them in his notes or in a doctor's RFC statement. For more information, see our article on Social Security disability RFCs.
Bursitis may worsen over time and lead to more physical impairments. If you don't currently qualify for Social Security Disability benefits for bursitis but you develop other problems, they can combine to make you disabled for Social Security disability purposes. For more information, see our article on getting disability for multiple medical conditions.