Does social security consider spinal stenosis disabling?

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Spinal stenosis can be a painful condition that limits a person’s ability to function. Some patients may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, but only if their condition is medically proven to be a total disability.

Spinal stenosis

According to WebMD, spinal stenosis occurs when either bone or tissue growth narrows the spinal canal in the neck or lower back. This can irritate nerves or the spinal cord, causing pain, numbness, stiffness or weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, legs, feet or buttocks. Severe cases can cause incontinence or trouble with balance and coordination. If the spinal cord is damaged, cervical spinal stenosis can be crippling.

  • According to WebMD, spinal stenosis occurs when either bone or tissue growth narrows the spinal canal in the neck or lower back.

Causes & treatment

Spinal stenosis is often caused by ageing, as ligaments get thicker, osteoarthritis leads to the growth of bone spurs, cartilage breaks down, or disks are pushed out of alignment. WebMD reports that symptoms come and go, and most people can continue to function with treatment. Remedies include medication, exercise, physiotherapy, corticosteroid shots or, in severe cases, surgery.

Social security benefits

The Social Security Administration offers two programmes for people with disabilities. Social Security Disability Insurance provides payments to the disabled person and his family, as long as he has worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. The Supplemental Security Income programme provides monthly payments based on financial need.


According to, eligibility for disability benefits is not based on the applicant’s diagnosis, but on his/her “functional limitations.” If an applicant can prove that his/her spinal stenosis is sufficiently limiting, he/she may qualify for these monthly payments.

Definition of disability

Social Security only pays benefits for a “total disability,” not partial or short-term disabilities. This means the applicant can’t work like he did before, makes less than £650 a month as of 2010, can’t adjust to other work because of his spinal stenosis and has suffered for at least a year. Spinal stenosis is listed in the Adult and Childhood Listings of Impairments of the book, “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security,” which guides Social Security’s decisions on who is disabled.

Medical evidence

To receive disability benefits, according to SSA, the applicant must provide medical evidence from a licensed physician, psychologist or pathologist stating that he has a severe impairment. The evidence should include a medical history, test results and lab findings, information on the diagnosis and treatment, and details on the impairment, including the applicant’s daily activities.


If the medical evidence is inadequate, Social Security will help arrange an exam by an independent source. If benefits were denied for medical reasons, the applicant can submit an Appeal Request and Appeal Disability Report online. If benefits were denied for non-medical reasons, the applicant should visit the local Social Security Office or call (800) 772-1213 to request a review.