One of the most common unfortunate ailments of Americans, especially as one begins to get older, is back pain. Back pain can occur due to a number of different causes, but one very common reason for back pain is degenerative disc disease. This more commonly occurs after the age of 40, but the level of pain that a person with degenerative disc disease can experience varies widely from person to person. If you are experiencing severe back pain which is affecting your ability to continue working, you may be considering whether Social Security Disability Insurance benefits would be available for you.
What is degenerative disc disease?
Degenerative disc disease is back pain which is caused by discs in the vertebrae that are worn down. The spine is comprised of vertebrae, which are the bones, and discs, which function as shock absorbers between the vertebrae of the spine. The discs help the back remain flexible and allow you to be able to bend and twist. Over time, the discs can start to show signs of wear and tear and break down. Each disc within the spine has two parts.
The first part is called the annulus fibrosus. That is a firm, tough outer layer which contains nerves. Tears that occur in this part of the disc can be very painful. The second part of the disc is called the nucleus pulposus. That is the core of the disc and has a soft, jellylike texture. This inner part of the disc contains proteins, and the tissues that they touch can become swollen and tender. If the proteins leak out of the disc and contact the nerve in the outer layer of the disc, it can become very painful.
What causes degenerative disc disease?
Degenerative disc disease becomes much more likely with age. The exact reason why the spine may wear out is not always known. Having a long history of physical work such as heavy lifting may contribute to faster deterioration of the spine.
In addition, a family history of spinal problems or arthritis may make one more likely to develop severe degenerative disc disease. Finally, if you have a previous spinal injury, you may be more likely to develop degenerative disc disease.
As a person ages, the discs may begin to dry out. When a person is born, the discs in the spine are mostly made up of water. Over time, as a person grows older, the discs will lose water and get thinner. As the discs act as shock absorbers in the spine, they do not absorb shock as well when they become flatter, as there is less cushion between the vertebrae.
Additionally, minor injuries and daily movements over time can begin to cause very small cracks in the outer wall of the disc. This can lead to the disc’s soft inner core pushing out of the cracks. Further, the disc can bulge or slip out of place. This can press into other nerves nearby or into the spinal canal.
How is degenerative disc disease diagnosed and treated?
After your doctor examines you, he or she will likely order imaging studies such as X-rays or MRIs. These will reveal the level of degeneration or damage which may be occurring in the spine. MRIs will also indicate whether the surrounding nerves or spinal cord are affected by disc degeneration or if there is a disc herniation occurring. Your doctor can also order an EMG or nerve conduction study (NCS).
For these tests, instruments are used to study the muscles and nerves and confirm whether they are properly transmitting signals from the spine to the arms. This test may be used if you are experiencing numbness and tingling in the upper arm due to problems with the discs in the cervical spine.
When treating degenerative disc disease, the medical provider will try to stop more damage from occurring and relieve your pain. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication or recommend certain over the counter pain relievers. Physical therapy may be recommended to improve your mobility and address your symptoms. In some instances, steroid shots may be recommended in order to help reduce swelling and inflammation.
These injections may occur in the epidural space in the spine. In some instances, surgery is recommended. The surgeon may perform a procedure called a discectomy, which removes the injured part of the disc and takes pressure off the nerves. The surgeon may also remove the entire disc and replace it with an artificial disc. In severe cases, a spinal fusion may be necessary after the disc is removed.
Can I get Social Security Disability for back pain?
If your back pain from degenerative disc disease is causing you pain to the extent that you are no longer able to perform normal full-time work activity, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. These benefits are administered by the federal government and are available to those who have worked and paid taxes on their income for at least five of the past ten years.
To have a successful case, it is imperative that you are receiving medical treatment for your back pain. It is important for your doctor to have MRIs or X-rays performed of the spine so that the extent of damage is assessable by Social Security. It is also important to have detailed notes explaining your exact symptoms and the doctor’s examination findings and recommendations.
Following your doctor’s treatment plan is also essential in a successful disability case. Finally, if you are over the age of 50 and your previous work was very physical in nature, your likelihood of success is higher due to Social Security’s rules surrounding age and work experience.
Give LaBovick Law Group a call today!
The attorneys at LaBovick Law Group have won a substantial number of hearing-level cases related to back pain and hold a wealth of experience with this particular condition. Our team will be able to explain Social Security’s rules, make arguments at hearings with a judge, and recommend documentation that would strengthen your case. Give us a call today at (561) 625-8400 to start your application for benefits today.