When a person has back pain, it can often be difficult for them to do a wide range of jobs. Some types of back pain make sitting for extended periods of time difficult, and some types of back pain make it nearly impossible to do jobs that require lifting and bending. Radiculopathy is the name for the symptom of back pain when a nerve root is impinged, which can cause a lot of pain and even muscle weakness. Anyone who is having back pain should definitely talk to their doctor to find out if there’s a treatment that’s available for their cause of back pain. But they should also find out if they’re eligible for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration.
What Is Lumbar Radiculopathy?
When the nerve root is compressed, certain symptoms, such as pain and the sensation of pins on your skin, are common. Radiculopathy refers to the symptoms that sometimes occur when the nerve root is compressed. The nerve in the spine can be compressed for a variety of reasons, including degenerated disks and herniated disks.
The lumbar region of the spine is the lower back. More precisely, lumbar refers to the section of the spine that’s between the diaphragm and the sacrum. The lumbar region is one of the areas of the spine that is most commonly affected by radiculopathy, partially because it is most burdened with weight. Over time, the weight causes the disks to compress, which puts the nerve roots at increased risk of being irritated by other types of spinal tissue. Some of the other reasons for lumbar radiculopathy include osteoarthritis, facet arthritis, and vertebral fractures.
Older people, usually 60 years old or more, are at a greater likelihood of developing lumbar radiculopathy because they’ve had the most time for their disks to compress. Getting into an accident, such as a car accident that caused whiplash, also makes people more likely to develop spinal radiculopathy. Carrying extra weight also causes people to be more likely to develop lumbar radiculopathy.
Symptoms of Lumbar Radiculopathy
One of the most common symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy is pain in the affected area. This pain might be sharp as a person moves, or it might be more of a dull, aching pain. Some people will also experience pins and needles sensations, numbness, or tingling. There are also some people who can experience muscle weakness because the signals from the spinal cord that tell the muscle to contract are not reaching the affected area. In severe instances, some people will also experience incontinence and other bladder and bowel issues.
If the lumbar region is affected by radiculopathy, only the areas immediately near and underneath the affected area of the spine will have problems. For instance, a person might have tingling in their toes and on the bottoms of their feet, but they won’t experience symptoms in their upper back because nerve signals aren’t disrupted above the point of the compressed nerve.
Some people with lumbar radiculopathy might not have symptoms for a long time, and it’s even possible to find the compressed nerve while doing tests for other problems. Additionally, some people might have times when the pain and other symptoms flare up, and there might be other times when the symptoms are less active or completely non-existent.
Treatment for Lumbar Radiculopathy
There are numerous treatments available for anyone experiencing the symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy, including surgery, medication, lifestyle changes, therapy, and more. Anyone who is interested in finding out more about which type of treatment will work the best for them should look around. Generally, though, what’s most effective when it comes to finding a treatment that is simple before going to more expensive and invasive treatments.
One of the first forms of treatment that a doctor might use is lifestyle changes. For instance, a doctor might tell their patient to start stretching or some form of physical activity on a regular basis. Physical therapy is also an option for people who are just starting to exercise and need specific instruction on how to begin in a safe and effective way. Chiropractic techniques, massage, and acupuncture are also sometimes helpful in relieving symptoms.
There are also some medications that could help relieve the pain and discomfort associated with lumbar radiculopathy. For instance, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, muscle relaxants, and analgesics are all possible medications.
Surgery is usually not the first option, but some people might eventually need it if the reasons for the compressed nerve root is something that can’t be resolved with medications or lifestyle changes. For instance, spinal stenosis is one possible reason for nerve root compression that might only respond to surgery.
Disability Benefits for Lumbar Radiculopathy
Getting disability benefits for lumbar radiculopathy is really dependent on the severity of the pain and the means that have been used to resolve the condition that’s causing the pain. Somewhat recently, the Social Security Administration has identified the presence of a compressed nerve as a potentially debilitating condition, and it has its own listing as a result.
In order to receive disability benefits for the condition, there are a few criteria that a person must meet. For instance, the doctor must be able to show proof of compression of the nerve root or spinal cord, but there must also be all of the following:
- limited movement in the spine
- loss of reflexes or sensation
- weakness of the muscles
- positive result on the straight leg raising test while in the supine and in the seated positions
The nerve root compression should also be expected to last for at least 12 months or have already lasted for 12 months.
While having an MRI, CT scan, myelography, or X-rays can support the doctor’s findings, one of these tests are not absolutely necessary for approval for disability benefits.
Many times, people don’t meet all of the qualifications for lumbar radiculopathy, but they might have spinal stenosis or arachnoiditis. So people who might meet these listings should also check into these criteria.
Another possibility for people who don’t qualify under either of the above listings is to qualify for a medical-vocational allowance by using the residual functional capacity test. In this process, the SSA will look at all of the limitations of the applicant and compare them to the requirements for all of their previously held jobs to determine whether or not there’s any work that they’re able to do. If not, there’s a good chance that the applicant will receive benefits.
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 Lumbar Radiculopathy, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.