Spinal stenosis is a condition caused by the narrowing of the spinal canal, the bones (vertebrae) that surround the spinal cord, in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back). As these bones narrow it puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves and causes pain. Both cervical and lumbar stenosis can lead to disability.
You are more likely to develop a spinal stenosis disability if you are over the age of 50. Men are more likely to develop stenosis but it affects women as well. As we age, our vertebral discs become drier and smaller which may lead to compression of the spine and spinal stenosis. However, certain types of arthritis, herniated discs or degenerative diseases, injury, or scoliosis can also cause spinal stenosis.
What Are Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
As the spinal canal narrows, it puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Depending on the location of the compression, pain may occur in the neck, back, buttocks, or legs. Pain may be accompanied by numbness and muscle weakness in the affected area(s). In general, cervical (neck) stenosis affects reflexes, weakness in the limbs, radiating pain, and reduced sensory ability. It is possible for stenosis to result in muscle wasting as well.
Lumbar stenosis usually causes lower back pain, leg pain or weakness, and possibly loss of deep tendon reflexes (DTR). Severe pain may affect your quality of life and cause you to need a cane, walker, or wheelchair to move around. You may have difficulty getting in and out of a car, you may need someone to help you get from a seated to standing position, or you may need help walking.
Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
There are surgical and non-surgical options for cervical and lumbar spinal stenosis. For serious spinal stenosis, you may want to consider surgery such as a spinal fusion.
If you would rather avoid surgery, other treatment options include physical therapy, lumbar traction, and chiropractic adjustments which may relieve the pain.
Medication such as anti-inflammatory drugs or steroid injections is also an option. Some NSAIDS meant to reduce inflammation may cause side effects such as heartburn, acid reflux, nausea, or in extreme cases kidney problems or bleeding of the stomach lining. Steroid injections can also cause headaches, anxiety, fever, elevated blood sugar levels or affect your immune system.
Can You Qualify for Benefits for Spinal Stenosis Disability?
Spinal stenosis is a recognized disability under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), but there are specific requirements you must meet. You may qualify for spinal stenosis disability benefits if you:
- Experience chronic pain in the lower back, buttocks, thighs, numbness or weakness in your legs
- Have continual non-radicular pain (pain does not radiate from a nerve)
- Are unable to walk without assistance from another person, a cane, walker, or crutches
- Surgery or difficulty recovering from surgery as a result of spinal stenosis
- A positive MRI or CT scan that confirms lumbar spinal stenosis
- An expectation that your disability will last 12 months or longer
Filing Your Benefits Claim
In order to receive benefits, you must prove your condition is severe enough to prevent you from working. When you apply for SSDI for spinal stenosis disability, you should have the following documentation.
- Diagnosis of spinal stenosis from your physician including a full spinal examination
- Examination notes which include information about your gait, range of motion, motor skills, and sensory abnormalities, the occurrence of muscle spasms, mobility and your prognosis
- Results of x-rays, MRIs, CT scans or other imaging tests to confirm the physician’s diagnosis. You have a better chance of receiving benefits if your MRI shows the spinal narrowing and joint space
- Surgical notes, if applicable
- Test results or written reports from any medical professional, physical therapist or provider participating in your care
Organize your documentation carefully and review all documents for completeness and accuracy. If you have any questions, contact the originator of the document and correct the information. Inaccuracies or missing information could delay or cause your claim to be denied.
We Can Help With Your Disability Claim
Detroit disability attorney Marc J. Shefman combines can help with a spinal stenosis disability benefits claim. Contact us today to learn more.