Can I receive Social Security disability if I have spinal stenosis?

Can I receive Social Security disability if I have spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a serious condition that can affect your ability to stand, walk and work for a living. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and are no longer able to work, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing in the spaces along the spine, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). This can include narrowing of the spinal canal, the spinal column or the spaces between vertebrae. 

What causes spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis can occur at birth if the spinal canal is small – those with scoliosis may suffer from spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis also can be a result of the aging process — arthritis or degeneration of the bones around the spinal nerves can result in compression. The condition also can be caused by injury or trauma to the spine, which can result in dislocation of the spinal column or fragments of bones entering the spinal canal.

Are there treatments for spinal stenosis?

Some patients may benefit from surgery meant to widen the spinal canals and relieve pressure on the spinal cord. A decompressive laminectomy is a common surgery to treat spinal stenosis, notes NIAMS. It involves removal of the roof of vertebrae, allowing more space for the nerves in the spinal column.

Other people may need to manage their spinal stenosis with a regimen of physical therapy, exercise and pain medications. In some cases, chronic pain related to spinal stenosis can restrict daily activities, not to mention ability to work in some cases.

Can I receive Social Security benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that spinal stenosis can be a debilitating condition that may prevent the sufferer from working for a living. Accordingly, a person with this condition will medically qualify for disability benefits if he or she has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis AND: 

  • has evidence of nerve compression that results in pain and a limited range of motion or movement of the spine; or
  • diagnosis of spinal arachnoiditis resulting in the need to change position more than once every two hours;  or
  • lumbar spine stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication, which is a painful cramping or weakness in the legs.


If you would like to apply for SSI or SSDI benefits on the basis of your spinal stenosis, the SSA will request your medical records and will expect to see documented evidence of your condition. This evidence must include a description of your spinal stenosis and the areas affected, medical evidence showing the narrowing of the spaces in the vertebrae, a description of your functional limitations, including a severely impaired ability to walk or stand, and a prediction of how long your condition is expected to last.  Medical conditions expected to resolve within 12 months do not qualify for either SSI or SSDI.

A qualified Social Security attorney can advise you on the types of Social Security benefits for which you qualify, if any. The attorneys at Rob Levine & Associates help injured people receive Social Security disability benefits and can help you receive the benefits to which you are entitled. Call 1-866-LAW-SSDI to set up your free initial consultation with a Social Security attorney today!

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