As we age, every person develops some narrowing of their spinal canal. It is a gradual process and there is usually not serious complications associated with spinal stenosis disability. A small percentage of the population will suffer more serious complications that can lead to a host of painful symptoms.
If you are experiencing lower back pain that seems to diminish when you lean or bend forward, you may have spinal stenosis. If your lower back pain is worse when sitting or standing for long periods or you are having leg numbness or weakness that affects your ability to work, you may need to a disability claim.
Our New York disability attorneys Riemer & Associates have years of experience representing clients suffering from spinal stenosis and many other lower back disabilities.
The basics of spinal stenosis and its causes
There is a canal that runs the length of your spine in which the spinal cord rests. Surrounding that canal are the vertebrae and spinal discs between the vertebrae. As we age, this canal narrows and the result can be pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves leading away from the spinal cord. Impingement on the nerves can cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness throughout the lower back and lower extremities.
Some of the medical conditions that can influence or cause spinal stenosis are bulging or herniated discs, osteoarthritis, bone spurs, scoliosis, kyphosis or scar tissue. When one or more of these is present the normal curvature of the spine can be interrupted. Narrowing of the spinal canal combined with abnormal spine curvature can cause pain, numbness and tingling and diminish your capacity to work.
It is also possible to develop stenosis in the cervical spine (neck), but this form is much less common. The most common basis for spinal stenosis disability benefits is osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine. It is particularly prevalent in the area of the L3, L4, L5 vertebrae and the upper sacrum. Whether the stenosis is in your neck or lower back, you may qualify to file a disability claim. If you need surgery, you will almost certainly be disabled for six months to a year and may require extensive physical therapy.
Treatment and long-term prognosis for spinal stenosis disability
Unless the symptoms are persistent and severe, surgery is usually not the first treatment option. Your doctors will likely prescribe anti-inflammatory NSAID pain relievers, physical therapy, chiropractic and non-surgical decompression of the spine. If conservative measures fail, spinal surgery may be a viable option.
- Spinal fusion: in severe cases this procedure may be used to restore proper curvature and stability of the spine. The doctor will fuse two or more vertebrae together with bone grafts or metal rods or screws. The live bone then grows and joins the vertebrae together to create rigidity.
- Laminectomy: the most common procedure to help alleviate pressure on spinal nerve roots. Laminectomy involves removing the rear portion of the vertebra (lamina) to make room for the spinal cord and nerves. By removing portions of the bone and any bony spurs that have formed, the nerves have more space to function without impingement.
- Foraminotomy: this surgery expands one or more foramen (the small holes that allow root nerves to exit the spinal column) to allow pressure on the nerve to be released.
Recovery from any of these procedures can take from six months to one year or more depending on the extent of the surgery and your response. Spinal fusion will require many months of healing and physical therapy during which time you will be disabled and unable to work.
What will the Insurance Company Focus On?
The insurance company will focus on how long you can sit, stand, and walk given your injury. If you have a sedentary job, such as one which is primarily behind a desk in an office, the insurance company will want to determine whether you have the tolerance to sit at least 6 hours per day. Because of this, you need to make sure that your doctor assesses how many hours or minutes you can sit without changing positions, and how long you can sit during an 8-hour work day.
The same goes for how long you could stand and walk at one time, and the total that you can stand and walk in an 8-hour work day.