Limits in Manual Dexterity Add to Disability Picture

We take the use of our hands for granted – nearly every task requires full use of the hands.

If you have “manipulative limitations” caused by injury or pain, be aware that this can be an important component of a disability claim. While more obvious in situations involving a condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome or a specific hand injury, this limitation can be particularly important when it is not the major disabling condition. Any significant limitation in a person’s ability to handle, pick up and finger small objects is important in the disability decision. If someone cannot write or type because of pain, their job opportunities are quite curtailed.

Many claimants have conditions that restrict the amount of lifting they can do. A person who can lift and carry even 10 pounds for most of the day may still be found capable of sedentary work. The addition of the factor of a “manipulative limitation,” particularly of the dominant hand, can be enough to tip the scale in favor of the claimant. This means a person would have trouble holding or grasping things, or doing small motor tasks.

More general medical conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and Chronic Fatigue may also include hand pain. Peripheral neuropathy can affect the use of the hands. Often when Social Security is collecting information from a claimant, the focus is on lifting, standing and sitting limits.

Soliciting this information from treating medical sources can be extremely important. Does the person have pain in the dominant hand? Is the pain increased by repetitive use? Someone may be able to lift five pounds, or use the painful hand for a task once or even five times, but can this be done on a continuous, repetitive basis for an eight-hour work day, five days a week? What is the effect of such an activity level on the person’s overall condition? That is painting the bigger picture of disability.