Herniated discs are painful, and they can make it more difficult to do many types of jobs. Whether the person with a herniated disc works in an office and has to sit for extended periods of time or has a job where they have to move around a lot and lift things, a herniated disc can affect a person’s ability to adequately perform their job. Anyone who is looking for SSDI benefits should know all about the condition and the materials that they’ll need to gather in order to make a strong case for why they need these benefits. Here are some of the most important pieces of information that a person should have about herniated discs if they’re thinking about applying for SSDI benefits.
What is a Herniated Disc?
To understand what a herniated disc is, you need to take a look at what the spinal column is comprised of. Humans have vertebrae, which are the bones that make up the spine. But humans also have spinal disks that act as cushions between each of the individual vertebral bones.
Each spinal disc has a hard, rubbery exterior called an annulus, and then there’s also a softer center that’s called the nucleus. When people move vigorously or in unnatural ways, the discs can slip out of place. Basically, a herniated disk is when there’s a tear in the annulus and the nucleus slips out of this tear. While the discs don’t have nerves, they’re directly near many nerves, and a herniated disk can irritate those nearby nerves, causing several kinds of discomforts.
A person of any age can get a herniated disc, but as people age, they become more prone to herniated discs because the discs become less flexible, making it easier for them to slip out of place. Other risk factors include having jobs or playing sports that require that the person lift a lot of weight or move briskly. For instance, people who lift with their backs instead of their legs might herniate a disc. People who smoke or are obese are also at a higher risk, and some people can have genetic factors that make it more likely that they’ll experience a herniated disc.
Symptoms of a Herniated Disc
There are a couple of main regions where a person will experience the pain and other unpleasant feelings of a herniated disc. If the herniated disc is in the lower back, the symptoms will present themselves in the buttocks, hip, and leg. If the herniated disc is in the neck, the symptoms will usually show up in the shoulder and arm. The pain is usually sharp or burning, and it often occurs when the person coughs or sneezes.
Numbness and tingling are other common sensations that are caused for the same reasons that the pain is caused. Finally, some people might also experience weakness in one or both sides of the body near the herniated disc. This weakness can also cause a person to fall or simply stumble.
There are also people who have a herniated disc but don’t notice symptoms right away. They might find out when they have an X-ray, MRI, or CAT scan.
Sometimes symptoms can worsen until they make daily activities difficult. For instance, people with a herniated disc in their lower back might also experience something called saddle anesthesia, which is a complete numbness in the inner thighs, hamstring, and rectal area.
In more severe cases, people can also experience difficulties urinating or passing stools. They might also experience muscle spasms because the nerve is irritated, causing them to trigger the muscles to contract.
Treatment for Herniated Disc
Some of the most conservative types of treatments will involve avoiding activities that cause pain and taking over-the-counter pain medication. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium are three of the most common over-the-counter drugs that a doctor might prescribe.
Cortisone injections is another option if the pain persists. In this process, the doctor uses a needle to inject a fluid called cortisone into the area around the herniated disc. This injection provides a cushion so that the nerves aren’t irritated.
People experiencing muscle spasms can benefit from muscle relaxers, which are taken orally. This type of medication, unfortunately, can be habit-forming and can cause sedation and dizziness, so people taking it need to be careful and talk to their doctor about any side effects that they’re having.
Doctors usually try to avoid it, but in some cases where the pain is severe and persists, some doctors might prescribe some types of opioids. The reason that many doctors avoid prescribing opioids is because this class of drugs can be very addictive. Codeine and oxycodone are two kinds of this class of drugs. Some people who take this kind of drug might also experience nausea, sedation, or confusion.
Another form of treatment that a doctor might prescribe is physical therapy. In this type of therapy, a doctors shows the patient different types of exercises that can minimize pain and discomfort. They can also show the patient ways to strengthen the muscles along the spine to avoid future injuries.
It’s uncommon, but in some cases in which the pain lasts for more than six weeks, a doctor might suggest surgery. Usually, the protruding part of the disc will be removed. In rare cases, the entire disc must be removed, at which point the doctor must also fuse the two nearby vertebrae.
Disability Benefits for Herniated Discs
When someone has a herniated disc for an extended period of time, it can make going to work and doing regular activities difficult. At this point, some people might look around for ways to pay their bills if they’re no longer able to safely or adequately do their jobs. SSDI insurance might be the best option for many people in this position.
Herniated discs are included in the musculoskeletal section of the SSDI Blue Book. But the key to determining whether or not someone is qualified for benefits is more complicated than simply having a herniated disc. The complications lie in the fact that the results on an MRI don’t necessarily correlate with the pain that a person feels. For instance, someone with a large herniation might barely be able to feel the pain, but someone with a smaller herniation might find the pain excruciating.
In order to qualify, the person must have a few key impairments. Mostly, there must be an impaired nerve root that is also accompanied by a limitation in movement and weakness. There must also be sensory or reflex loss.
When applying for disability insurance, there are several things that the applicant must be sure are noted in the paperwork from their doctors, so making sure that everything is documented correctly from the beginning and throughout the time that the patient has the herniated disc is imperative. And filling out the paperwork for SSDI benefits correctly should be at the top of the applicant’s list of priorities in order to make a successful claim.
How We Can Help
There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…
- Apply for Social Security Benefits and want to ensure everything is done right the first time
- Appeal a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
- Appeal an existing denial of Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits
If you are facing one of these situations due to Herniated Discs, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.