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What Kinds of Back Problems Are Covered by Social Security Disability?

back problems social security disabilityThere are parts of our body that we take for granted. We don’t appreciate how much we need certain body parts until we are in excruciating pain.

People who have not experienced back pain do not realize how debilitating it can be, and how it can affect every part of your life. We’re not talking about the twinge you get if you pushed yourself a bit too hard at the gym, or the soreness that comes after a long day of activity. We’re talking about chronic back pain, and can gradually become worse as time goes on. Even if you experience some relief, the pain will come back regularly, which is why we say it can and will affect every part of your life.

Back pain affects millions of people. According to a 2022 article published in StatPearls:

Low back pain (LBP) is widely prevalent in the general population and is one of the main reasons individuals seek medical care. It is a leading cause of disability worldwide, placing a significant medical and economic burden on society. The lifetime prevalence of low back pain is approximately 70%, costing the US healthcare industry $87 billion annually.

If your back pain becomes so severe that you must consider retirement, you may be able to file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI, or just “Disability,” for short).

What are Social Security Disability benefits?

Social Security Disability benefits are federal benefits offered by the Social Security Administration to elderly and disabled people who require material needs. Disabled workers can apply for the Social Security Disability Insurance if they meet criteria. You must:

  • Have worked in jobs covered by Social Security.
  • Have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s strict definition of disability.

Does Social Security usually offer benefits to disabled workers with back problems?

Social Security has offered disability benefits to workers with serious back problems. In fact, back problems are one of the main reasons why disabled workers file for Social Security benefits. Some of the back injuries that are covered by Social Security Disability include:

Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a back injury where the spinal canal narrows, leading to a compression of the spinal cord and the nerve tissue. This back injury can be caused by trauma and cause a person to suffer from serious pain in the lower back and thighs. This back injury can become so severe that a person may require the assistance of medical devices to walk.

Spinal nerve root compression

This type of back injury happens when outside experiences cause severe pressure on the 31 pairs of nerves and roots associated with the spine. When these nerves experience trauma, a person can suffer from a limited range of motion, a lack of reflex in the limbs, and a weakening of the muscle tissue. Nerve root compression can also cause a person to suffer from radiating pain.

Herniated discs

This type of back injury occurs when a person experiences pain with one of the discs, or rubbery cushions, that sit between the vertebrae. Even though this type of injury can happen at any part of the spine, it often happens in the lower back. Some of the symptoms of a herniated disc includes a numbness or tingling, a weakening of the muscles, and severe arm or leg pain.

Degenerative disc disorder

This type of back injury happens when there is osteoarthritis happening in the spine. Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis, and it often happens in the neck or lower back with this disorder.


This type of spine injury happens when a person’s spine takes on a sideways curve. Some of the symptoms of scoliosis include an uneven waist, uneven shoulders, one hip that is higher than the other, and one shoulder blade that is more prominent over the other.

How will the Social Security Administration determine if my back injury is severe enough for Disability benefits?

There are five conditions that Social Security uses to determine whether a Social Security applicant has a legitimate disability:

  • Whether the applicant is working. If you are currently working with your back injury, and are earning more than $1,350 a month, your back injury may not qualify as a disability.
  • How severe your condition is. You must show that your back injury is so severe that it limits your ability to perform basic work-related tasks for at least 12 months.
  • Whether your condition is listed in the agency’s list of medical conditions. Social Security contains a list of medical conditions that the agency deems severe enough to affect a person from earning a certain amount of income. If your condition is not listed, the agency will have to decide if the condition is as severe as a medical condition on their list.
  • Whether you can perform the work you did previously. Social Security will determine whether your back injury will prevent you from performing your past duties.
  • Whether there are other types of work you can perform. Social Security will also assess whether there are other types of work that you can do despite your back injury. To determine this, the agency will use factors like your age, education, and transferable skills.

Has your initial Social Security Disability application been denied? Would you like to give yourself a fighting chance at receiving the benefits that you deserve? Call Rocky McElhaney Law Firm at 615-425-2500, or submit our contact form today to schedule your free consultation. We represent clients in Nashville, Hendersonville, and Clarksville, and throughout Tennessee.