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 with a condition lasting more than 12 months that renders them unable to work full-time may qualify for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has strict guidelines on what it considers a disability. For this reason, it’s rare for someone with sciatica to file a successful SSD benefits application.

In order to receive Social Security disability, the SSA must determine you’re not capable of doing your old job. More specifically, you must prove you cannot work because of your sciatica. However, if no other job will hire you based on your age, education, and skills, then you may qualify.

How the SSA Evaluates If You’re Unable to Work for Health Reasons

Because so much depends on your ability to work, the SSA will first ask you to complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. They do this to find out what level of exertion you can do while on the job. The classifications for this include sedentary, light, medium or heavy duty work tasks. Then, they’ll consider to what extent your sciatica affects how well you can complete work-related activities. These includes common activities, like standing, climbing, walking, sitting and stooping down.

Sedentary jobs require the least amount of standing and physical exertion. So, if your doctor limits your walking or standing to no more than two hours per day, then this is the only sort of job you can hold. However, if you don’t have the right skills for a sedentary job, it limits your available work options. If pain makes you unable to sit for long periods of time, that’s another factor they’ll consider. Another common sciatica symptom is numbness or weakness on the affected side. This symptom can affect your ability to climb or balance without assistance.

If the SSA finds just one job you can do with sciatica, even with your given restrictions, they’ll deny your Social Security disability claim.

Because sciatica often causes debilitating pain, the SSA considers whether chronic pain limits your ability to work. Pain is subjective, however, so it’s imperative your medical records show documented evidence of your pain. Your doctor should also include consistent pain level descriptions and notes covering your treatments and symptom progression. The SSA takes all 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

You May Qualify for Legal Assistance

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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