Tips on Applying for Disability with a Herniated Disc

A herniated disc is when the cushioning between your spinal discs has ruptured, which can cause constant pain, numbness, and weakness in arms or legs. They are generally caused by stress on your spine overtime as you get older, but can also be caused by an injury.

You need to present the Social Security Administration (SSA) with enough medical evidence to prove that you have a herniated disk and it significantly affects your ability to work. Often, a physical exam and medical history are the only things used to diagnose a herniated disc, but your doctor can order other tests as well. You need to include statements from your doctor, a report of the physical exam, past treatments and outcomes, a detailed medical history, reports of medical tests, operative reports, and anything else you or your lawyer think is relevant.

Physical Exam

Your doctor will examine the tenderness in your back and move your legs around to find the cause of the pain. The doctor could also do a neurological exam to test your reflexes, muscle strength, ability to walk, and ability to feel light touches, vibrations, and pinpricks.

Imaging Tests

  • X-ray: Doesn’t show herniated discs, but can be used to rule out other causes of back pain they can detect.
  • CT Scan: Shows images of your spinal column and the structures around it.
  • MRI: Can find the location of the herniated disc and the nerves affected.
  • Myelogram: Shows nerve or spinal cord pressure by X-rays taken after dye is injected.

Electromyogram (EMG)

This nerve test measures the electrical activities of muscles when they are at rest or contracted. Abnormalities in this test can point to a number of causes, including a herniated disc.

Nerve Conduction Studies

This test how well and how fast nerves send electric signals, called impulses, throughout the body. It’s used to pinpoint damage to the peripheral nervous system (all nerves coming from the brain and spinal cord).

Your Disability Application

Meeting the requirement for the SSA’s listing for spinal disorders can be tough with a herniated disc. Often times, the disk heals by itself or is repaired by spinal surgery. You need to prove to the SSA:

  • Your condition will last longer than a year
  • You can’t do your job for reasons such as you can’t stand for long periods of time, you can’t lift ten pounds, or you can’t bend down.
  • Because of your skills, education, or age, you can’t adjust to lighter work.
  • Your herniated disc is causing severe nerve root compression
  • You were diagnosed with stenosis or arachnoiditis in addition

Hiring a disability lawyer can help you get through this process easier and faster. Many claims are denied the first time, and then you must go through a lengthy appeal process that can last up to or more than two years. Lawyers know what you need to be approved, and can make sure you don’t make any mistakes on the application or leave any important information out. They can also communicate with the SSA and get you a fair case in front of a judge.