Degenerative disc disease is a spinal disorder in which the soft, cushiony discs that sit between the vertebras of the spine break down over time, resulting in a number of symptoms. Nerve and muscle pain, and spinal inflexibility are among the most common and the most difficult to deal with.
In addition to pain and stiffness, people with degenerative disc disease may also experience other neurological symptoms, like numbness, tingling, weakness in the muscles, and loss of balance. The location of the degenerative disc disease can also affect your symptoms. For example, issues with the discs in the neck may cause headaches as well as other, more common symptoms.
Individuals with degenerative disc disease can be severely limited by the condition. If you work in a physical job or a sedentary one, the pain of degenerative disc disease can be enough to prevent you from performing both mental and physical job duties. Whether or not you can continue to work with this disorder is usually determined by the degree of degeneration from which you suffer and the involvement of nerves and muscles.
Degenerative Disc Disease and Physical Capacity
If you have traditionally worked in jobs in which you had to frequently lift, carry or push and pull heavy items or perform other more strenuous physical job duties, then you may be unable to continue to work with degenerative disc disease. Pain in performing physical job duties is the most common limitation that people with degenerative disc disease experience, but loss of flexibility is also very common.
As the disease advances, many people experience loss of motion in their spine. The area of the spine in which degenerating discs are present becomes less flexible and twisting, turning, bending or stooping may become a problem. Sitting or standing for long periods of time can also be a common concern for people with this condition, and the ability to perform essential job functions can be compromised as a result.
Degenerative disc disease may or may not cause severe symptoms. Whether you’re able to continue to work with the condition will depend on the symptoms you experience and how often they occur. The severity of the pain you suffer and the loss of flexibility you experience will also be important factors influencing whether you’re able to maintain gainful employment.
Degenerative Disc Disease and Mental Capacity
The symptoms of degenerative disc disease are physical in nature and generally have little to no affect on a person’s mental capacity. That being said, constant pain can certainly impact your ability to think clearly. It can also lead to depression. Loss of flexibility and the impact it has on your everyday life can also result in depression issues.
Pain medications, muscle relaxers and other medications that may be necessary to treat degenerative disc disease can have side effects that impact mental capacity. Sleep disruption due to pain and discomfort experienced with this disorder can also cause mental clarity and other cognitive problems.
Any of these issues may result in limitations that prevent you from being effective in your normal job duties, particularly if your responsibilities require you to remember details, make decisions, or look for discrepancies or errors.
Applying for Disability with Degenerative Disc Disease
When you apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits with degenerative disc disease, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will first review your medical records and compare them to listed conditions in the Blue Book, which is the manual utilized by Disability Determination Services (DDS) staff that contains descriptions of conditions that are known to potentially result in disability.
The area of the Blue Book related to degenerative disc disease is the Musculoskeletal System section, and under this primary heading you’ll find a subsection entitled “Disorders of the Spine”. The SSA recognizes degenerative disc disease as a condition that can cause disability; however, being approved for benefits with this condition can be challenging, especially if you are under 50 years of age.
Seeking assistance in compiling the necessary medical records for proving your disability claim is advisable. It’s also important to consider getting help with your application for SSD from a Social Security advocate or attorney who may be able to increase the chances you’ll be approved for benefits.
Fill out the free evaluation form on this to be contacted by an attorney or advocate in your area for a free evaluation of your claim.