A herniated disc, also referred to as a slipped or ruptured disc, can occur when one of the cushions or pads between the vertebrae in the back or neck shifts out of position and presses on an adjacent nerve causing pain or inflammation.
A herniated disc can develop as you age due to natural wear and tear, repetitive movements, obesity, or genetics. They can also be the result of severe trauma or injury of the spine. As with other back conditions, treatment varies and can include medication, physical therapy, and surgery.
Symptoms of Herniated Disc
If you have a herniated disc the symptoms you may experience can vary based on the location and severity of your condition. For instance, minor injuries to your spine may cause little to no pain. Severe injuries or disc ruptures may cause significant pain to radiate down your back and into your lower extremities. Other types of symptoms can include:
Dull ache to severe pain
Numbness in your muscles
Tingling and burning in your lower back or neck
Loss of bowel or bladder control
Winning SSDI benefits for a Herniated Disc
Claimants may win SSDI benefits if they can prove they have a severe health condition which does not allow them to work or perform substantial gainful activity for at least 12 continuous months. In addition to the medical requirements, however, SSDI claimants must also have worked and paid sufficient payroll taxes to be considered insured by the Social Security Administration.
Assuming you meet the nonmedical requirements for SSDI benefits, the SSA will try to determine if you condition is severe enough to be considered disabling. To do this they will first review whether your condition is listed in their SSA Listing of Impairments, and if it is, whether or not your condition and your corresponding symptoms are as severe as the listed condition.
For example, back conditions are listed under 1.00 Musculoskeletal System, Section 1.04 Disorders of the spine (e.g., herniated nucleus pulposus, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis, vertebral fracture).
Under this listing the SSA will expect that your condition results in a compromise of a nerve root, including the cauda equina or spinal cord. More specifically, the SSA will determine if the nerve root compression has caused limited motion of the spine, neuro-anatomic pain distribution, or motor function loss (atrophy with muscle weakness or muscle weakness) along with sensory or reflex loss.
If you have sufficient medical evidence to prove your condition is as severe as the listing described above, assuming you meet the nonmedical requirements for SSDI, you should be approved for benefits immediately.
What if my condition does not meet a listing?
Unfortunately, most claimants with herniated discs will not meet the SSA Listing. This does not, however, mean you will not qualify for benefits, although it will be more difficult. If your condition does not equal or exceed a listing you will have to prove, through good medical evidence, that you lack the residual functional capacity to work. This can be done through the medical vocational allowance process. Talk to a lawyer if you have questions about whether you can work.