A herniated disc, a disc protrusion or a disc bulge is a type of spinal injury that can be quite painful, and can cause significant limitations to other parts of your body.
In between each vertebra sits a spinal disc, which helps keep the bones together and also to act as a cushion between them. This disc has a rugged, tough exterior, called the “annulus fibrosus,” and a soft, gel-like interior, called the “nucleus pulposus.” A herniated disc occurs when the disc experiences damage to that tougher exterior of the disc (the annulus fibrosus) and the soft interior part of the disc (the nucleus pulposus) pushes out through the tear in the annulus.
This type of damage to a disc results in intense pain and can radiate down your upper and lower extremities. Some people experience disc herniations due to the the aging process, but it can also be caused by a traumatic injury.
If you work in a physically demanding job, are overweight, or simply have certain genes, you could be more prone to disc herniations. Some people will be asymptomatic while others might experience multiple painful symptoms. Also, keep in mind that herniated discs are more common in older individuals, but anyone at any age can experience a herniated disc. We have seen plenty of individuals in their 30's and 40's experience herniated discs due to their high job demand or due to an injury.
Herniated Discs Symptoms and Treatments
Many herniated disc occur it he lower back (lumbar spine). However, it is also possible to have one in your neck (cervical spine) or the middle of your back (thoracic spine).
If you feel leg pain, arm pain, buttock pain, tingling or numbness in the back or limbs, or weak muscles, you may have a herniated disc. The disc is impinging and pressing up on your nerves causing these symptoms. In the more severe cases, a person can experience loss of bowel or bladder control, weakness or numbness in the back, or difficulty moving their legs and walking.
Treatment for a herniated disc will vary based on severity. Some may use pain medications and undergo physical therapy. In other case, you may require steroid injections and/or surgery.
Does a Herniated Disc Qualify Me for Disability Benefits?
Herniated discs are discussed in the Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” listing of disabling conditions, in Section 1 (Musculoskeletal System) under paragraph 1.04 (Disorders of the spine) where herniated discs are referred to as herniated nucleus pulposus (“HNP”).
Many people are disabled for some period of time because of herniated discs. It can cause issues with bending, stooping, crouching, crawling, climbing steps, walking, sitting, standing, etc. If you do have a more severe case, you may be eligible for benefits.
The Social Security Administration provides a set of criteria that an applicant needs to demonstrate (with medical records) in order to “meet or equal” the listing for Herniated Discs. However, you don’t always need to meet or equal the listing in order to qualify. What SSA considers is whether your herniated disc will prevent you from sustaining work. In many severe cases of a herniate disc, it can prevent an individual from working even the simplest of jobs. Even a sit down job can be difficult with severe back pain. Or maybe your arms and hands are significantly limited due to severe neck pain. If that is the case, than you may very well qualify for social security disability benefits.