Can I Get Social Security Disability for Neck Pain?

Can I Get Social Security Disability for Neck Pain?

In order to qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits for neck pain or neck problems, you must either meet the requirements of one of Social Security's official disability listings or prove that they don't have the capacity to return to work because of their neck pain or doctors' restrictions.

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Meeting a Musculoskeletal Disability Listing for Neck Problems

The Social Security disability listings for musculoskeletal disorders address one of the causes of neck pain and problems (compression of a nerve root), though there are other ways to qualify for disability benefits for other causes. But, if you meet the requirements of a listing because of severe problems in your cervical spine, Social Security won't even have to consider how your neck problems limit your activities; you would be approved for benefits right away.

Listing 1.15 is the official Listing they will use to determine if you qualify for Social Security Disability. This addresses disorders of the spine leading to the compromise of a nerve root, requiring adherence to specific criteria outlined in parts A, B, C, and D of the listing. These symptoms range from pain, muscle fatigue, muscle weakness, decreased deep tendon reflexes, etc. 

To meet the listing you must have evidence showing neurologic compromise resulting in pain, paresthesia or muscle fatigue AND neurological signs on physical exam (i.e. muscle weakness, signs of nerve root involvement) AND imaging studies showing compromise of a nerve root. You must also have a documented medical showing the need for a walker, bilateral canes or crutches or the need for a wheelchair or the inability to use one arm while needing to use the other for an assistive device or the inability to use both hands or the inability to use both arms to independently initiate, sustain and compete work-related activities involving fine and gross movements.

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Not Being Able to Return to Work

If your condition does not meet the listing criteria (which is very difficult), you might still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if Social Security finds that your pain and limitations prevent you from returning to work. Social Security assesses your limitations and how they limit your ability to do work activities by determining your Residual Functional Capacity.

Some limitations that neck problems can cause are:

  • You may have trouble using your arms or hands, especially if you have decreased feeling in your arms.
  • You may have trouble turning your head, preventing you from driving or looking around.
  • Your doctor may limit you from lifting items over 10 pounds or reaching.
  • Your doctor may limit you from bending the neck forward to look at computer screens or phones because that increases the level of pain and tension.
  • You may lose coordination in your fingers due to cervical radiculopathy, causing you to frequently drop items or be unable to sustain fine motor movements like typing.
  • Neck problems that cause severe pain in your neck and/or headaches which prevent you from being able to concentrate on tasks.

Social Security will review your medical records to find limitations like these to create your RFC. Then SSA will then look at your RFC, your past work, your education, and your age to see if there are any jobs that you can do.

Securing benefits for a musculoskeletal disability like neck pain can be a complex and challenging process, but a Social Security Disability lawyer can help you navigate the steps and help you avoid critical mistakes. Connect with our experienced team today.

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