Spinal stenosis is one of the most common medical diagnoses associated with approved Social Security Disability claims. Spinal stenosis is common among individuals suffering from degenerative disc disease. Depending on the severity of the illness, this medical condition makes makes working and performing physical tasks very difficult.
If you are living with spinal stenosis, read on as we outline what the disease is and how the Social Security Administration views impairments related to it.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal Stenosis is a disorder of the skeletal spine (vertebral column) affecting musculoskeletal functioning. In laymen’s terms, it is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. Spinal stenosis occurs most often in the lower back and the neck. Some people with spinal stenosis may not have symptoms. Musculoskeletal disorders like stenosis may be congenital or acquired.
Medical Evidence and Treatments
SSA needs objective medical evidence from an acceptable medical source to establish that you have a medically determinable spinal stenosis disorder. They also need evidence from both medical and nonmedical sources who can describe how you function in day-to-day life. This source information is used to assess the severity and duration of your musculoskeletal disorder.
Strong stenosis disability claims often use imaging. Imaging refers to medical imaging techniques, such as x-ray, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and radionuclide scanning. Imaging and other diagnostic tests provide evidence of spinal stenosis.
In addition to imaging and evidence from sources about your daily functioning, SSA also considers the use of an assistive device. For SSA’s purposes an assistive device is any device that you use to improve your stability, dexterity, or mobility. People with spinal stenosis sometimes require the use of a cane or walker.
SSA needs evidence from a medical source that supports your medical need for an assistive device for a continuous period of at least 12 months. This evidence must describe any limitation(s) in your upper or lower extremity functioning and the circumstances for which you need to use the assistive device. SSA does not require that you have a specific prescription for the assistive device.
And finally, depending on its severity, spinal stenosis may require surgery. If you have not yet had the recommended surgery or PT, SSA will not assume that these interventions will resolve your disorder or improve your functioning. A decision to have surgery is between you and your doctor.
SSA’s Blue Book Listing for Spinal Stenosis
SSA’s Blue Book is a list of medical impairments with detailed requirements for when the SSA should judge a medical condition to be disabling. This listing of impairments contains the most common medical conditions considered to be severe enough to keep an individual from working.
Lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in compromise of the cauda equina documented by A, B, C, and D:
A. Symptom(s) of neurological compromise manifested as:
- Nonradicular distribution of pain in one or both lower extremities; or
- Nonradicular distribution of sensory loss in one or both lower extremities; or
- Neurogenic claudication.
B. Nonradicular neurological signs present during physical examination or on a diagnostic test and evidenced by 1 and either 2 or 3:
- Muscle weakness.
- Sensory changes evidenced by:
- a. Decreased sensation; or
- b. Sensory nerve deficit (abnormal sensory nerve latency) on electrodiagnostic testing; or
- c. Areflexia, trophic ulceration, or bladder or bowel incontinence.
- Decreased deep tendon reflexes in one or both lower extremities.
C. Findings on imaging or in an operative report consistent with compromise of the cauda equina with lumbar spinal stenosis.
D. Impairment-related physical limitation of musculoskeletal functioning that has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months, and medical documentation of at least one of the following:
- A documented medical need for a walker, bilateral canes, or bilateral crutches or a wheeled and seated mobility device involving the use of both hands; or
- An inability to use one upper extremity to independently initiate, sustain, and complete work-related activities involving fine and gross movements, and a documented medical need for a one-handed, hand-held assistive device that requires the use of the other upper extremity or a wheeled and seated mobility device involving the use of one hand.
Contact a Disability Lawyer About Your Stenosis Claim
If you’re living with spinal stenosis and unable to work, we’d be happy to provide you with a free consultation on your claim. Although the condition can be severe, and many stenosis claims are successful, it’s important to work with a professional to organize and present the appropriate medical evidence for your claim.