Can You Get Social Security Disability for Having Sciatica?

Can You Get Social Security Disability for Having Sciatica?

Sciatica occurs when pain radiates down along the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back through your hips and down each leg. Generally, sciatica only affects one side of the body and happens because a herniated disc or bone spur compresses the nerve. This can lead to pain, inflammation and/or numbness on the affected side.

There are a variety of risk factors that may increase a person’s chances of experiencing sciatica including:

  • Obesity
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Excessive sitting
  • Diabetes

In most cases of sciatica, the condition can be effectively treated with physical therapy, medication, steroid injections and/or surgery, and the symptoms can decrease or disappear within a matter of weeks. However, in some rare cases, sciatica can lead to serious and permanent damage that can cause a loss of feeling or movement in the affected leg as well as bowel and urinary incontinence. In these cases, it’s beneficial to know if you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. 

Can Someone With Sciatica Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?

Individuals who develop a disability that lasts for more than 12 months and renders them unable to work full-time may be eligible for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has strict guidelines on what it considers a disability, so it’s often rare that someone with sciatica will be granted approval for the claim as the affliction can often be treated in considerably less than 12 months.

In order to be granted Social Security disability, the SSA must determine that you’re not capable of doing your old job because of your sciatica. Additionally, if you are unable to handle other gainful work based on your age, education, and skills because of your condition, you might be able to get your Social Security disability claim approved.

Because so much of the process relies on your working ability, the SSA will complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment to find out what level of exertion you can do – whether it’s sedentary, light, medium or heavy – and to what extent the sciatica affects how well you can complete work-related activities like standing, climbing, walking, sitting and stooping down. Sedentary jobs require the least amount of standing and physical exertion, so if your doctor has limited your walking or standing to two hours or less a day, then this is the only sort of job you can hold. However, if your skills set is not suited for a sedentary job, it limits your options as can an inability to sit for long periods because of pain. Another common symptom is numbness or weakness on the affected side, which can affect your ability to climb or balance.

Keep in mind that if the SSA finds just one type of job you can do with sciatica, even with your given restrictions, your Social Security disability application will be denied.

Because sciatica causes often debilitating pain, the SSA will take into account whether chronic pain affects your ability to successfully complete work. Pain is subjective, however, so it’s imperative that your medical records provide documented evidence of your pain, and that there’s are consistent descriptions of pain levels as well as efforts to treat them. The SSA will take these factors into consideration:

  • Pain intensity, location, and frequency
  • Activities that increase, alleviate or cause pain
  • How pain affects your daily life
  • Medications were taken to treat pain
  • Other treatments tried
  • Additional factors that affect pain

Consider Seeking out Professional Help

Applying and getting Social Security Disability approval for sciatica may be a tricky process and more challenging than with other conditions, so it may be in your best interest to seek out the advice of an advocate or attorney. This person can help you determine if you have a winnable case and provide you with assistance in how to get your disability claim approved.

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