Lower back pain and neck pain are among the top contributors to chronic pain among adults. Neck pain has an annual prevalence rate exceeding 30% among adults in the US; nearly 50% of individuals will continue to experience some degree of chronic neck pain or frequent occurrences. Among adults, 20% to 70% will experience neck pain that interferes with their daily activities during their lifetime.
Neck pain and problems can be caused by many different issues: muscle strain, joints that become worn, nerve compression, injury, and disease. Many of the neck problems seen on disability applications are due to degenerative disk disease, whiplash, herniated discs, inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, slippage of a vertebra (retrolisthesis or spondylolisthesis), pinched nerves, infections such as meningitis, and certain types of cancer.
Symptoms of neck pain and problems can include sharp, shooting pain, numbness, difficulty swallowing, dizziness, headache, pains in the face and/or shoulders, and arm tingling and numbness.
In order to qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or SSI benefits for neck pain or problems, claimants must either a) meet the requirements of one of Social Security’s official disability listings, or b) prove that they don’t have the capacity to return to work because of their neck pain or doctors’ restrictions.
Claims involving neck pain will be evaluated under Adult Listing 1.15, for disorders of the spine resulting in “compromise of a nerve root.” Compromise of a nerve root, sometimes referred to as “nerve root impingement,” is a phrase used when a physical object, such as a tumor, herniated disc, foreign body, or arthritic spur, is pushing on the nerve root as seen on imaging or during surgery. It can occur when a musculoskeletal disorder produces irritation, inflammation, or compression of the nerve root(s) as it exits the skeletal spine between the vertebrae. Related symptoms must be associated with, or follow the path of, the affected nerve root(s).
However, even if you are not found to be disabled under the listings, you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you are found unable to return to work due to your medical impairments. Social Security will assess your limitations and how they limit your ability to do work activities using a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form. For example, you may have limitations regarding the use of your hands and arms to lift and/or carry objects, type a ta computer, or grasp and handle small objects.
Social Security will review your medical records and any statements from your doctor to find limitations to create your RFC. The agency will then consider your RFC, your job experience, your education, and your age to see if there are any jobs left that you can do.
By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®