Social Security maintains a listing of conditions that qualify people for disability benefits. Not surprisingly, this is called the Listing of Impairments. It is available online at this location. For those persons suffering from back and spinal conditions, the place to look is at the very beginning of the listings: 1.0, Musculoskeletal Conditions. The thing to remember about the Listing of Impairments is that if you meet the description of any one of the listings, you win. There is no further analysis of any kind. That's the good news. The bad news is that it is awfully hard to meet a listing. It simply does not happen that often.
But, even if you don't meet a listing, knowing what Social Security is looking for can guide you as you prepare your case. If you examine the listings at 1.0, you will see that one thing that matters a lot is radiculopathy. That is featured prominently in 1.04 A. Most people who meet a listing for back problems are going to meet 1.04 A. Naturally, Social Security has to obscure the meaning of their listings. When you look at 1.04 A you will see language describing . Evidence of nerve root compression characterized by neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test (sitting and supine). And that brings us to radiculopathy. What Social Security calls neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, doctors call radiculopathy. Either way, it refers to pain the originates in your back but travels down one or both legs. The reason why the pain travels down your leg or legs is that it is following the distribution of the damaged nerve root. Common sense tells us that the nerves in the lower back travel down the legs. This one symptom, if documented by your doctor, could be enough for Social Security to approve you for disability. If you have pain in your lower back and it is traveling down either or both legs, you could have a much easier path to approval. If this describes you, ask your doctor to do tests for radiculopathy. One of these is the so-called straight leg raise test. This could not be much easier to undertake as it involves nothing more than the name implies. If you have additional questions about radiculopathy and disability, please call or email.