What Spinal Conditions Qualify For Disability Benefits?

A significant percentage of Social Security Disability applications are for back problems, which can cause crippling pain and impact both your quality of life and ability to work. If this impairment is caused by a medically determinable spinal condition, you may be able to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to meet your living expenses.

Spinal Conditions That Qualify For Disability Benefits

The Blue Book, which is the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) manual of known impairments, recognizes the following spinal conditions to be sufficiently disabling to qualify you for benefits.

Spinal Arachnoiditis

Arachnoiditis is a painful inflammation of the arachnoid, a membrane that encloses and protects the nerves of your spinal cord. Symptoms include a burning pain, stinging sensation, and neurological problems. If severe enough, the swelling can cause scar tissue to form and fuse your spinal nerves together.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the openings within your spine, which can apply pressure on the nerves. The most common cause is spinal changes due to osteoarthritis. The symptoms, which can worsen over time, include numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a rare form of arthritis that causes stiffness and pain in your back. It is a lifelong condition that can spread up to your neck or damage your joints, resulting in a hunched back and debilitating pain.


Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage cushioning your bones wears down, causing swelling, pain, and possibly bone spurs. With osteoarthritis of the spine, cartilage of the discs and joints in your neck and lower back degenerate. When spurs form, they can put pressure on the nerves and cause weakness in the arms or legs.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease occurs when one or more of the discs in your spine wears down, causing intense pain. It can be caused by an injury, tears in the disc due to daily activities or participation in sports, and age-related drying out of the disc. Symptoms include pain and weakness in the leg muscles or foot drop.

Facet Arthritis

Facet arthritis develops when the cartilage in the facet joints wears out and becomes thin, causing your discs to slip and or bone spurs to grow. As osteoarthritis develops in the joints, inflammation can occur, leading to stiffness, pain, and even pressure on the nerves of your spinal cord,

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries are usually due to trauma and are considered disabling if they have lasted for at least three months and are expected to leave the person unable to work for at least 12 months. Depending on the extent of the injury, symptoms include pain and even paralysis of limbs or organs.

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure intended to correct a spinal disorder. It connects two or more of your vertebrae to create a single piece. Although outcomes are usually successful, risks include infection, spinal nerve damage, or degeneration. 


Get a Free Case Evaluation

Although the SSA recognizes certain spinal disorders as disabling, you are required to undergo tests like X-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs to confirm the extent of your impairment. A Social Security Disability lawyer will guide you by preparing your application for benefits, helping you collect the results of these tests, and making the strongest possible case for the benefits you need. To connect with an SSD lawyer in your area, complete the free case evaluation form today.

Additional Resources

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