Disability Benefits for a Herniated or Bulging Disc

About Herniated and Bulging Discs

A herniated disc (also known as a bulging disc, ruptured disc or slipped disc) is when one of the rubbery discs located in-between the vertebrae that are designed to absorb shock and allow flexibility of the spine becomes damaged by bulging or breaking open. Herniated discs can occur throughout any part of the spine but are more common within the lower back. They can occur naturally due to age related degeneration and can also manifest from injuries that were inflicted upon the spine.

Symptoms of a Herniated or Bulging Disc

Many people experience little to no symptoms from a herniated or bulging disc. However, others experience symptoms that vary depending on the location of the injured disc.

  • Severe pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Burning sensation
  • Limb numbness
  • Pins and needles
  • Overactive reflexes

Qualifying with a Herniated or Bulging Disc

For any condition to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, the condition’s symptoms must be severe enough to prevent the applicant from working for at least one year. Herniated and bulging discs typically heal within a year or can be restored with surgery, which makes qualifying with a herniated or bulging disc rather difficult. However, herniated and bulging discs are known to frequently cause impingement of a nerve root and other long-term spinal complications. Because of this, applicants who file a claim for a herniated or bulging disc will be evaluated under listing 1.04 Disorders of the Spine.

1.04 Disorders of the spine

An applicant must have a compromise of a nerve root or the spinal cord as well as one of the following requirements with the proper acceptable medical evidence:

  • Applicant must have nerve root compression
  • Applicant must have spinal arachnoiditis
  • Applicant must have lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication

Medical-Vocational Allowance

Even though an applicant may not qualify with a bulging or herniated disc based off listing 1.04 Disorders of the Spine, he or she could still become approved based on the medical-vocational allowance if the symptoms are severe enough. The medical-vocational allowance allows any condition that prevents the affected individual from engaging in unskilled work (work that requires very little training or education). If a herniated disc causes pain and limits an individual’s ability to move or sit still for long periods of time, he or she may be considered unable to perform unskilled work and would qualify for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).


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