Lumbar Stenosis - Condition and Symptoms
The five vertebrae that make up the spine in the lower back are referred to as the lumbar vertebrae. There are openings in the vertebrae through which the nerves pass. Lumbar Stenosis is a condition in which either the spinal canal or the vertebral openings in the lumbar spine become narrow. This narrowing is called stenosis. If the narrowing progresses to the point that the nerves passing through these areas are compressed, this compression can cause severe pain. Arthritis, bone spurs, degenerative disc disease, tumors, infection, and bone disorders can cause Lumbar Stenosis. Degenerative arthritis is the most common cause.
As with most conditions, Lumbar Stenosis shares symptoms with other conditions, such as diabetic neuropathy or certain vascular conditions. In order to rule out other causes, your doctor will take a complete medical history and give you a thorough physical examination to test range of motion, strength, reflexes, and sensation. Your doctor will probably recommend x-rays, CT scans, or an MRI to reveal whether or not the nerves in your lower back are compressed. A nerve conduction test can show which nerves are irritated.
Symptoms of Lumbar Stenosis include low back pain, weakness, numbness, pain, and loss of sensation in the legs. If left untreated, Lumbar Stenosis can lead to loss of sexual ability and loss of bowel and bladder control. Symptoms are usually progressive, especially if the stenosis is caused by arthritis. The pain is often worse when a person is walking, so most suffering from Lumbar Stenosis are unable to walk long distances. Because the pain is less when a person leans forward to a certain degree, a walker is often a helpful assistive device. Rest also helps to ease symptoms, while standing and bending backward also aggravate symptoms.
Lumbar Stenosis can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications and pain medications, some of which specifically target nerve pain. Physical therapy and cortisone injections can also be prescribed. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to remove the bony tissue that is compressing the nerves. Surgery can be very successful, depending on how long the nerves have been compressed and whether there has been permanent injury to the nerve.
Filing for Social Security Disability with a Diagnosis of Lumbar Stenosis
The Social Security Administration (SSA) discusses Disorders of the Spine, including spinal stenosis, under Section 1.04 of the Blue Book. Lumbar Stenosis is a type of spinal stenosis.
In order to apply for Social Security Disability benefits, your medical records must show the following:
- You must be diagnosed with Lumbar Stenosis.
- Your records must show that your condition has caused nerve root compression and that this compression has resulted in pain, limited range of motion of the spine, and muscle weakness in combination with sensory or reflex loss. SSA will also require a straight-leg raising test.
- Your medical records must also contain evidence of pseudoclaudication (leg pain that becomes increasingly worse with walking) that is severe enough that it results in an inability to effectively walk, and should include the results of all imaging studies (MRI, CT scan, e-rays).
- Your medical records should also document treatment you have received and your response to that treatment. As with all other disabling conditions, the SSA is most concerned with how you are able to function, despite your condition. Your application for disability benefits should therefore emphasize any limitations imposed on your everyday life by the pain caused by this condition, despite treatment.
Your Lumbar Stenosis Disability Case
If you are disabled because of Lumbar Stenosis that is so severe it prevents you from working, you may well be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. Working closely with medical professionals and a qualified Social Security Disability attorney or advocate to collect and present the appropriate documentation to support your disability claim in front of the Disability Determination Services (DDS) can help to ensure that your Lumbar Stenosis disability case will have the highest possible chance of success.