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Spinal Arachnoiditis and Social Security Disability

Spinal Arachnoiditis - Condition and Symptoms

Spinal Arachnoiditis (also known as spinal fibrosis) is characterized by longstanding inflammation of the two innermost layers of the sac or membrane that surrounds the spinal cord (the arachnoid) and contains the spinal fluid. Spinal Arachnoiditis can be caused by a traumatic injury, spinal surgery, blood entering the spinal sac from a hemorrhage, chronic compression of the nerves, dyes used for medical testing, and infections resulting from diseases such as AIDS or tuberculosis. The inflammation causes constant irritation, scarring, and binding of nerve roots and blood vessels so that they stick together.

The diagnosis of this condition can usually be made by a spinal MRI, which can show thickening and swelling of nerve roots if the condition has just appeared. Clumping of nerve roots cannot be seen immediately after the condition appears, but only months later.

A person affected with Spinal Arachnoiditis can experience severe stinging and burning pain and neurological problems, numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, sexual dysfunction, loss of bowel and bladder control, the inability to sit, muscle cramps, spasms, muscle twitching, electric shock, the feeling that insects or water are running over the skin, and difficulty controlling limbs. The predominant symptom of Spinal Arachnoiditis is chronic and persistent pain in the lower back, legs, or sometimes throughout the body. If left untreated so that the disease progresses, symptoms may become more severe or even permanent. The pain is constant and does not respond well to treatment, so most people with this condition find it impossible to work.

There is no cure for Spinal Arachnoiditis. Treatment is focused on reducing the chronic pain that accompanies the condition, and includes pain medications (including those administered by an inthrathecal pump), physical therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (a painless electrical current administered to relieve stiffness and pain and improve mobility), and a spinal cord stimulator, which transmits an electrical signal that is used for pain relief. Surgery is not recommended because of scar formation and trauma to already damaged nerve tissue.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Diagnosis of Spinal Arachnoiditis

Section 1.04 of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book, Disorders of the Spine, addresses the condition of Spinal Arachnoiditis along with spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, herniated nucleus pulposus, facet arthritis, and vertebral fracture.

When you file for disability benefits under this listing, it is important that your medical records document not only your condition, but also treatment you have received and the result of that treatment, including any adverse affects the treatment may have had on you. The Social Security Administration wants to see medical records that document the physical effect(s) your Spinal Arachnoiditis has on the nerves of the arachnoid. Your records should include:

  • A diagnosis of Spinal Arachnoiditis;
  • Medical evidence that includes operative notes, tissue biopsy reports, or reports of MRI imaging, showing the characteristics of this condition, such as thickened and swollen nerve roots, clumping, etc.

Be sure to document the pain that you suffer and describe it as accurately as possible. In addition, describe the limitations your pain has on you, such as being unable to sit or walk.

Your Spinal Arachnoiditis Disability Case

If you are disabled because of Spinal Arachnoiditis 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 Spinal Arachnoiditis disability case will have the highest possible chance of success.