What Spinal Disorders Qualify for Disability Benefits?

If you suffer from one of the many spinal disorders, you might be eligible to receive financial assistance through the Social Security disability benefits program.

Whether it is arthritis of the spine or a spinal cord injury, a team of medical examiners from the Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews your application to determine if you qualify for financial assistance.

To qualify for financial assistance, your spinal disorder must produce severe symptoms that limit your time at work or prevent you from working. There are also other conditions to qualify for disability benefits, which a Social Security attorney can explain to you.

What Are the Medical Qualifications for a Spinal Disorder?

Before you learn the answer to the question, “Which spinal disorders qualify for disability benefits,” you should first receive an overview of the process used by the SSA to determine eligibility.

The SSA refers to a medical guide called the Blue Book to determine eligibility for Social Security disability benefits. Although there is not a listing for general back pain, several spinal disorders make the list of medical conditions that might qualify an applicant for financial assistance.

We say “might” because you have to meet the severity of symptoms standards established by the SSA. Following each listing of eligible medical conditions is a description of the symptoms that qualify an applicant for disability benefits.

Spinal disorders cause several different types of severe symptoms that can qualify an applicant for financial assistance.
Here is the list of spinal disorders that might qualify you for disability benefits:

Degenerative Disk Disease

As time passes, the disks in your spine can deteriorate to the point that you experience intense pain. Healthy spinal disks act as cushions between the vertebrae to prevent contact.

You have the ability to bend and twist your back, as well as lift heavy objects. As the disks degrade over time, the wear and tear can result in excruciating pain that makes it impossible to perform physical labor.

What Spinal Disorders Qualify for Disability Benefits?

Herniated Disc

Although a degenerative disc worsens over time, the same cannot be said for a herniated disc. This type of spinal disorder often develops without much advanced warning.

The lack of preparedness and the intense pain associated with a herniated disc can keep you out of work even if you do not perform physically demanding job tasks.

Nerve Root Compression

Compounding the intense pain that accompanies a herniated disc is nerve root compression. A herniated disc that compresses nerve roots can cause severe neurological damage that lasts a lifetime.

You might experience a loss of senses, as well as a loss of motor control. A weakening of the muscles limits your mobility and the pain the radiates throughout your body requires emergency treatments.


If you have heard the medical termed “pinched nerve” during the broadcast of a sporting event, then you have heard the announcer describe the painful symptoms of stenosis.

When a nerve pinches against the spinal column, the result is a throbbing pain that develops in the thighs, buttocks, and lower back. Because stenosis negatively impacts the buttocks, working at a desk job might not be possible.


Also referred to as arthritis of the spine, osteoarthritis develops when the slippery tissues covering our spine begin to wear down. The lack of tissue causes the vertebrae to rub against each other, which produces painful friction. Osteoarthritis can cause consistent pain, as well as lead to the development of back stiffness.

Spinal Cord Injury

Frequently triggered by a traumatic event, such as a car accident or a gunshot wound, a spinal cord injury can take years of rehabilitation just to get you upright and walking.

A bruised spinal cord can lead to the cutting off of the supply of blood the spine needs to function properly. With the brain not controlling the body, the result of a spinal cord injury can be life-threatening.


As one of the most sensitive nerves in the body, the sciatic nerve can flair up to produce sciatica. Intense back pain shoots up and down the spinal cord, as well as from the lower back into both legs. The pain is so intense that it becomes difficult to fall asleep, much less hold down a steady job.

Broken Back

When lower vertebrae fracture, a patient has suffered a broken back. Bone loss due to aging or the weakening of the lower vertebrae can cause one or more fractures. Suffering a broken back can keep you out of work for an extended period and if that is the diagnosis, then you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

How Do I Get a Second Opinion for a Spinal Disorder?

The SSA denies a majority of Social Security disability claims. If that happened to you for a spinal disorder, you should know that you have ways to convince the SSA to approve your disability claim.

You have the right to appeal the decision made by the SSA. During an appeal for reconsideration, the SSA might request you to undergo a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment.

A physician from the SSA will put you through a series of tests to determine whether you can continue working your current job or if you need to find another line of work.

An RFC assessment for a spinal disorder might answer one or more of the following questions:

How long can you sit?
How long can you stand?
How much can you lift?
How often can you lift heavy objects
Can you stretch your arms over your head?
Can you bend your back or assume a crouching position?
How well can you grab an object or use your hands for normal tasks?
Do you need to use an assistive device like a wheelchair?
Depending on your answer, the physician overseeing your RFC assessment might recommend sedentary, light, or medium work.

Get a Free Case Evaluation Today

Before you file a disability claim with the SSA, you should meet with a Social Security attorney for a free case evaluation. The lawyer that you meet with will review the medical evidence you plan to submit to the SSA. The SSA makes it difficult to receive financial assistance, even for a spinal disorder.

A Social Security lawyer can present a persuasive claim that gets you approved for disability benefits.

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