If you have a spinal condition, such as arthritis of the spine, it can cause severe pain and limit your mobility. If arthritis in the spine has left you unable to work, you may qualify for disability benefits administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
If you have arthritis of the spine and you think you will be out of work for at least 12 months, get a free case evaluation today.
To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must meet the criteria established for a listing in the Blue Book, which is a medical guide used to determine if an individual is legally disabled and meets the criteria for monthly benefits.
The Medical Criteria
There are many conditions that qualify for disability benefits. If you suffer from arthritis, it is an inflammation of the joints. There are many causes for arthritis, such as autoimmune conditions, viral and bacterial infections, the aging process, obesity, and broken bones.
There are four listings of the Blue Book that refer to arthritis and the impairments that one may suffer. Those listings are Listing 1.02, Listing 1.03, Listing 1.04, and Listing 14.09.
involves joint dysfunction. If your arthritis has caused major dysfunction of the joints in your spine, you will automatically qualify for disability using this listing.
You will be required to show that your arthritis has led to a deformity of the joint, such as misalignment, excess boniness, or permanent shortening of the joint leading to chronic stiffness and pain that prevents full use of the joint.
is applicable if you have undergone spinal fusion or a similar surgery and you can no longer walk effectively on your own and aren’t expected to walk on your own within a year, you may be approved automatically for disability benefits under this listing.
is for Disorders of the Spine. If you suffer from arthritis of the spine you may qualify through this listing. To qualify with this listing, you must show that you suffer from an arthritis-related condition that compromises a nerve root or the spinal cord with one of these complications:
- Nerve root compression – which causes wide-spread, nerve-related pain, weakened muscles, and limited flexibility with loss of sensation and reflex.
- Spinal arachnoiditis – which leads to painful burning sensations or other abnormal feelings that require you to change your position more than every two hours.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – which causes non-nerve related pain in the lower back, buttocks, or lower limbs with weakness of the lower extremities that leads you to require assistance when walking, such as use of a walker or crutches.
covers inflammatory arthritis, which includes psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. You must provide hard medical evidence to show that your arthritis has led to one of the following:
- Swelling or deformity of your hip, knee, or ankle joints that causes extreme interference with your ability to walk on your own.
- Your shoulder, wrist/hand, or elbow makes it difficult to care for yourself and perform routine activities.
- Swelling or deformity of your knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, ankle/foot, or wrist/hand with an associated disease in at least two body systems or organs with one affected more than the minimal amount and at least two of the following – fever, weight loss, severe fatigue, or malaise.
- Ankylosing spondylitis which causes the bones to fuse together with fixation of the lower or upper spine and extremely limited flexibility with the dorsolumbar or cervical spine at 45.
Arthritis in the Lower Back
The most prevalent type of spine arthritis is osteoarthritis (noninflammatory or degenerative arthritis). It mainly affects the lower back and develops over time as a result of normal wear and tear. Inflammation and pain result from the gradual breakdown of cartilage between the joints. The pain is usually more noticeable when you bend or twist your back because it is caused by mechanical injury.
Osteoarthritis of the Spine Disability
If you have osteoarthritis of the spine, you may be considered disabled and qualify for disability benefits. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, and it can be caused by many other conditions, such as obesity, autoimmune disorders, bacterial or viral infections, fractured bones, or simply aging.
There are four Blue Book listings that address arthritis and the arthritis-related impairments an individual can suffer from.
- Listing 1.02 involves joint dysfunction, and if you can show that your condition causes deformity of the joint, such as misalignment, permanent shortening of the joint, or excess boniness that prevents full use of the joint, your claim will be approved.
- Listing 1.03 is applicable to individuals who have undergone spinal fusion or a back surgery and can no longer effectively on your own and will need help walking for at least a year, your claim will be approved.
- Listing 1.04 is for disorders of the spine. If you suffer from arthritis of the spine, you may be able to qualify through this listing. You must show that you suffer an arthritis condition hat compromises a nerve root or your spinal cord and you have one of the following complications – nerve root compression, spinal arachnoiditis, or lumbar spinal stenosis.
- Listing 14.09 is for inflammatory arthritis, such as psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It must have led to swelling or deformity of the knee, hip, or ankle joints causing extreme interference with your ability to walk unassisted; swelling or deformity of your wrist, elbow, or hand making it difficult to care for yourself or perform routine activities; welling or deformity of your elbow, ankle, foot, wrist, hand, knee, or shoulder with an associated disease in at least two body systems or organs with one affected more than the minimal amount and at least two of these symptoms – weight loss, fever, malaise, or severe fatigue; or ankylosing spondylitis, which causes fusing of the bones with fixation of the lower or upper spine and extremely limited flexibility with the dorsolumbar spine or cervical spine at 45.
To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have worked enough to earn sufficient credits and be covered by the program. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is needs-based and does not require a work history, but specific financial criteria must be met.
Arthritis in the Neck
The majority of people with neck arthritis have no symptoms. When neck arthritis symptoms do appear, they usually consist of mild to severe pain and stiffness in the neck. It can be worse by prolonged looking up or down, as well as activities that keep the neck in the same posture for long periods of time, such as driving or reading a book. Neck pain normally goes away when you rest or lie down.
Your doctor will begin by taking your medical history and performing a physical examination. They'll assess your neck's range of motion, strength, sensitivity, and reflexes to see whether there's any strain on your nerves or spinal cord. They'll inquire as to when your symptoms began, when the pain occurs, and what causes the discomfort to improve or worsen.
Is Arthritis In the Neck a Disability?
Arthritis in the neck, or cervical spondylosis, may be considered a disability by the SSA if it is severe. The SSA’s definition of a disability defines it as an inability to be engaged in any substantial gainful activity due to a medically diagnosed physical or mental impairment which can be expected to last for no less than 12 months or result in death. There are many neck problems that qualify for disability benefits according to the SSA guidelines which include arthritis in the neck.
Even though neck arthritis is covered by Listing 1.15 in the SSA’s Blue Book under disorders of the spine the best way to prove arthritis in the neck is a disability is to provide medical evidence from your doctor.
Test results can include the following:
- an X-ray which will show the alignment of the bones along your neck;
- an MRI scan, which creates better images of the neck’s soft tissues;
- a CT scan which can give your doctor a better view your spinal canal and any bone spurs that may be present;
- an electromyography (EMG) which measures the electrical impulses of the muscles at rest and during contractions;
Sometimes your doctor may ask for a blood test to determine whether a rheumatoid factor or any other antibody is causing inflammatory arthritis.
Applying For Disability Benefits
Although advanced stages of arthritis in the spine count as a qualifying condition, you may need assistance proving your disabled status to the Social Security Administration. If you can't meet the SSA's arthritis listing in the Blue Book, you'll have to rely on an RFC analysis to qualify for payments. If you are disabled because of arthritis in the spine, you will want to consider applying for SSDI. You can start the process today.