Can I Get Social Security Disability for Radiculopathy?


Following an injury or illness, many people are unable to work due to their disability. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides monthly cash benefits to individuals with a qualifying disability and serious financial need. Spine (back and neck) disorders are very common among people applying for disability, including radiculopathies.

SDI helps disabled persons cover medical expenses and other necessities related to their disability. Receiving these benefits can offer a sense of security that is invaluable to someone experiencing mobility issues due to a radiculopathy injury.

Disorders of the Spine/Nerve Root Compromise

Disorders of the skeletal spine that result in the compromise of one or more nerve roots are commonly referred to as radiculopathies. Some of the most common causes of radiculopathies include:

  • Herniated discs. A herniated disc is a common condition where the soft inner material of one's spinal discs can push through tears in its outer layer, putting pressure on nearby nerve roots and potentially causing pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness.
  • Spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal narrows, compressing the spinal cord and often causing pain, tingling, and weakness in the limbs.
  • Degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease is a condition that occurs when the discs between the vertebrae begin to degenerate and lose their ability to absorb shock. This can lead to the compression of nerve roots and the development of radiculopathy symptoms.
  • Spinal arthritis. Spinal arthritis is a condition in which the joints in the spine become inflamed, leading to the compression of nerve roots and the development of radiculopathy symptoms.

Is Radiculopathy Permanent or Resolvable?

In most cases, radiculopathy symptoms can improve over time with treatment. Treatment for radiculopathies typically involves a combination of conservative measures such as physical therapy, pain management (pain medication and/or injection therapy), and activity modification, and may also include surgical intervention in more severe cases.

Does Radiculopathy Qualify for SSDI?

There are essentially two ways that a spinal disorder will be considered by the Social Security Administration. First, you will need to look at whether the individual meets the “Blue Book” listing impairment for spinal disorders.

While spinal disorders can be considered under a number of different listings, current listings which deal most directly with spinal disorders are Listing 1.15 and 1.16. The full text of these listings can be seen here.

These listings are highly technical. Discussing the full text of these listings and what they mean requires a significant understanding of medical terms and goes beyond what can be discussed here.

Generally speaking, in addition to objective tests (such as MRI’s, CT scan, x-rays, or EMG), these listings require evidence of severe nerve root or spinal cord compression resulting in severe problems in the upper and/or lower extremities. This often takes of the forms of weakness, radiating pain, loss of coordination, or gait problems.

Relatively few people are granted benefits under either Listing 1.15 or 1.16. This is due to the extreme requirements of these listings. But even if a person cannot meet a Listing Impairment, the Social Security Administration must still consider how the spinal disorder affects a claimant’s ability do perform work-related functions, such as:

  • lifting,
  • walking,
  • standing, or
  • using fingers or hands for repetitive actions.

There is a “Social Security Ruling” (a policy statement from the SSA) which addresses how the Social Security Administration makes this determination, which can be viewed here. The most important evidence to help a case is a statement from treating medical provider which provides his/her opinion on your ability to work.

To diagnose radiculopathy, a medical professional will likely conduct a physical exam and tests to check your reflexes and strength. If they notice you have difficulty with certain movements, they can better identify which nerve might be affected. Then, they can order imaging tests and or nerve conduction studies to pinpoint the precise problem area.

Consult with Our Michigan Social Security Disability Attorney

Whether you need help determining whether you qualify for benefits or filing a claim, Nolan & Shafer PLC is here and equipped to help you effectively navigate your case. Our attorney is committed to providing high-quality, tailored solutions to our clients, and if you or a loved one have radiculopathy, we can help ensure you adequately prepare and present your claim.

To get started on your claim, call (231) 403-0040 or reach out online to our firm today.

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