Virtually all work activities requires good use of the hands. Whether you are a construction worker, a plumber, an office worker, or a computer engineer, the use of your hands is incredibly important to perform the work activity that is required of you. If you have a construction job, your hands are required to assist you in lifting and carrying. You may need to climb ladders and grip on to your tools to work. If you are an office worker, you need to be able to type and maneuver the tools of a computer system. Any significant limitation on your hands means you will have severe difficulty working.

Conditions that Cause Limitations in the Hands

Sometimes you have conditions directly related to the hands. Perhaps you have severe arthritis that had developed after years of working. You may also have developed carpal tunnel syndrome. Other conditions cause symptoms in the hands as well. A common symptom of neck injuries or degenerative disc disease of the neck is radiating pain to both hands. This pain, called “radiculopathy” or radicular pain, stems from pain shooting down your bilateral hands. This can lead to weakness and a feeling of numbness and tingling in the hands. Diabetes mellitus can caused neuropathy in both hands, which is in many cases debilitating. Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus sometimes experience severe symptoms in their hands. Individuals also develop complex regional pain syndrome, or CPRS, in the hands, a truly painful and debilitating condition.

Am I disabled if I have limitations with my hands?

Many individuals are approved due to limitations in the hands. The Social Security Administration will look at the severity of your hand condition when determining what your work capacity is. At the initial and reconsideration level, a doctor will review your medical records and see what limitations are contained in your medical evidence.

The Listings

Hand Injury and Disability AttorneyA listing means you are disabled by virtue of the severity of your condition. There are requirements that the Social Security Administration looks at to see if you can work. The new Listing, 1.18, has several requirements, but the most important is as follows:

An inability to use both upper extremities to the extent that neither can be used to independently initiate, sustain and complete work-related activities involving fine and gross movements

The listing specifies that fine movements are activities such as picking, pinching, manipulating, and fingering, and gross movements include handling, gripping, grasping, holding, turning, and reaching, and can also include lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling.

This is a pretty difficult standard to meet, though not impossible. Recall the listing means you cannot “independently initiate, sustain, and complete work-related activities.” An experienced disability lawyer can look at your medical records and see if your condition is severe enough to meet this requirement.

If you do not meet his listing, this does not mean that you are not disabled, it simply means that one must look at whether you can do your past work or other work in the national economy.

How do I prove I am disabled if I do not meet the Listing?

The level of what you have to prove can depend on whether you are below 50, 50-54, or 55 or older. If you are under 50, you have to prove you cannot perform any work, including sedentary desk work. If you are 50 or older and unable to perform your past work, you may be found disabled if limited to sedentary or light work, depending on your specific situation.

For those under 50, Social Security stated in SSR 96-9p the following regarding the bilateral hands:

Most unskilled sedentary jobs require good use of both hands and the fingers; i.e., bilateral manual dexterity. Fine movements of small objects require use of the fingers; e.g., to pick or pinch. Most unskilled sedentary jobs require good use of the hands and fingers for repetitive hand-finger actions. Any significant manipulative limitation of an individual’s ability to handle and work with small objects with both hands will result in a significant erosion of the unskilled sedentary occupational base. (SSR 96-9p.

Social Security understands that having issues with both hands can be debilitating. Again, the case will turn on how limited you are in both of your hands. At the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will likely ask you about your activities of daily living and pay close attention to what you can and cannot do. It is important to be truthful. It is also important that your medical evidence has been submitted to the judge so they can review it.

A case where only one hand is affected can be more difficult to prove, especially if under 50. Other factors would need to be considered, such as your pain level and what you can do with your unaffected condition. If you have other severe medical conditions, then those would also be considered.


The Law Office Of Brad Thomas has been successful in obtaining disability benefits for conditions that affect the hands, including cervical spine conditions, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, and many others. Call us today

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