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Applying for disability with Degenerative Disc Disease, Spinal Stenosis, Arachnoiditis
Filing for disability with degenerative disc disease
If you are applying for Social Security disability on the basis of back pain, you will need to have medical evidence. Social Security disability examiners prefer to have a 12 month medical history of treatment to make their disability determinations and this fact illustrates how important it is to be receiving medical treatment while trying to qualify for disability. This treatment must be provided by an approved medical source. For example: physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, physical therapist, or other medical professional.
Note: For individuals applying on the basis of a back problem, Social Security does not recognize a chiropractor as an acceptable medical source other than using their imaging (x-rays).
If you are planning to file for disability, you should have your own treating physician if possible. If you do not have medical records or all of your medical records are more than ninety days old, it is likely that Social Security will send you to a consultative examination. Consultative examinations are performed by doctors who are paid by Social Security to perform a very cursory examination that provides them with the current status of an individualís impairment. You should not consider this examination as any kind of treatment or even a thorough evaluation of your disabling condition.
The Disorders of the Spine listing
Social Security uses the criteria established in impairment listing 1.04 Disorders of the Spine of the blue book (guidebook for Social Security disability determinations) to evaluate disability claims with an allegation of back pain or problems. For example, if you have osteoarthritis, herniated nucleus pulposus (ruptured disc), spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis, spinal arachnoiditis, or vertebral fracture, this listing will be used to make your medical determination for Social Security disability.
You must have a disorder of the spine that results in a compromise of the nerve root or spinal cord, along with one of the following:
1. Nerve root compression evidenced by neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, range of motion limitation of the spine, motor loss with muscle weakness with sensory or reflex loss. If the lower back is involved positive straight leg rising (you have pain with raising of the leg) in the sitting position or lying down; Or
2. Spinal arachoiditis, verified by an operative note, or pathology report of tissue biopsy, or by medically acceptable imaging. Demonstrated by severe burning or painful dysesthesia, resulting in the need to change position or posture more than one time every two hours; Or
3. Lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication, evidenced by findings of medically acceptable imaging, manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness, that results in an inability to ambulate effectively (i.e. use of prescribed cane, crutches, or even wheelchair).
It was my experience as a Social Security disability examiner that the disability rules and guidelines made it difficult to be approved on the basis of back conditions. This was especially true if the disability applicant was under the age of 50, because disability vocational guidelines favor older individuals. Considering the impairment listing criteria listed above it is easy to see why most disability applicants with back problems are not able to meet or equal the criteria of an impairment listing 1.04.
If you cannot meet or equal the listing, you still may be approved through a medical vocational allowance. This type of allowance is based upon several factors rather than the strict criteria of an impairment listing. Disability examiners are allowed to consider a personís education, job skills, age, and residual functional ability (what a person can do in spite of the limitations their impairment imposes upon them).
More about Degenerative disc disease
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a painful condition most often caused by strenuous or repetitive heavy lifting or an injury such as a car accident, sports injury or serious fall that can affect the spine. The strain of lifting or injury can cause tears and trauma to the discs that separate the vertebrae in the spinal column, making them lose their elasticity and ability to flex, bend and protect the vertebrae and the spine.
Degenerative disc disease also happens normally in a gradual progression due to age and a loss of fluid in the discs, but does not usually cause a problem in this capacity. When Degenerative disc disease is caused by heavy lifting or injury it is more prominent and painful due to disc inflammation and subsequent nerve pain.
Degenerative disc disease is characterized by low back pain and sometimes neck pain that can spread to other parts of the body such as the thighs, buttocks and hips. It may be accompanied by tingling, numbness and weakness in the arms or legs and can lead to other more serious issues such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis. If you have lower back or neck pain, it is highly suggested that you get an exam to make sure it is not a serious issue. Degenerative disc disease can sometimes be diagnosed with a physical examination, although sometimes an X-ray is needed to determine the problem.
Contrary to the name, Degenerative disc disease is not actually a progressive disease, but a condition that normally happens slowly with age, unless an injury is sustained. Since Degenerative disc disease is more often an injury related condition and not a disease, it is most often treated with a combination of chiropractic work, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs such as over-the-counter pain medications or in some cases prescription pain relievers, or spinal injections. If these treatments do not work and the pain is chronic and severe, accompanied by nerve damage, spinal fusion surgery may be needed.
Currently there are many new treatments options being explored for Degenerative disc disease, from disc replacement and stem cell therapies to gene therapy and glucosamine injections.
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Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved
What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?
What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?
Receiving a Disability Award Letter
Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability
Most popular topics on SSDRC.com
Social Security Disability SSI Questions
The listings, list of disabling impairments
Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?
Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials
How much Social Security disability SSI back pay?
How to apply for disability for a child or children
Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application
Filing for disability - when to file
How to apply for disability - where to apply
Qualifications for disability benefits
How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits
Qualifying for Disability - The Process
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SSI disability for children with ADHD
What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability
Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips
More Social Security Disability SSI Questions
Social Security Disability SSI definitions
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New and featured pages on SSDRC.com
Who can help me file for disability?
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Related Body System Impairments:
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Are Social Security Disability Claims Based On Back Pain Usually Turned Down?
How many Social Security disability cases are approved for back pain?
Get your pain symptoms on record so that Social Security can take this into consideration
Never minimize your pain or other symptoms because this can be used against you
Will I qualify for disability due to back pain, a bone spur, and bulging discs?
Degenerative Disc Disease, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
Degenerative joint disease and Filing for Disability
Herniated Slipped Disc and Filing for Disability
Facts about Lumbar Fusion and Filing for Disability
Facts about Spinal Fusion and Filing for Disability
How long does it take to get a decision on disability in California?
How to apply for SSI Disability in California
How much does it cost to hire a Social Security Disability attorney in California?
These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.
Can you get temporary Social Security disability or SSI benefits?
Permanent Social Security Disability
What is the difference between Social Security disability and SSI?
Who is eligible for SSI disability?
Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?
What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.
The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.
To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.