- Is Degenerative Disc Disease Considered a Disability?
- Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
- DDD and the Inability to Work
- Proving Your Degenerative Disc Disease as a Disability
- Seeking Appropriate Treatment for your Degenerative Disc Disease
- Can an Attorney Help Me Get Long-Term Disability for Degenerative Disc Disease?
Do You Have A Case?
Back pain can be a serious issue that can limit your ability to perform at work. It is also one of the most common reasons for individuals to file for long-term disability insurance. If you are living with Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD), you are aware of the debilitating pain this condition causes. Because of the debilitating symptoms of this disease, you may be entitled to long-term disability insurance. However, most disability insurance claims for back pain won’t be approved without a proper diagnosis and strong medical evidence. While not technically a “disease,” this condition can lead to severe pain and damage in the back.
Is Degenerative Disc Disease Considered a Disability?
Degenerative Disc Disease can definitely count as a disability. As your DDD progresses, the pain can get more intense. Depending on the severity of your disc degeneration, you may be able to classify your condition as a disability. For some people, the pain from their DDD is severe and recurring enough to prevent them from performing at work.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative Disc Disease is a condition that develops as the disc joints between your vertebrae shrink over the years. This often happens because of dehydration, damage, and the general effects of aging. The discs do not receive as much blood flow as most other body tissues, which causes them to self-repair at a much slower rate than others. Injuries to discs are almost impossible to repair without medical intervention Normally, these discs operate as a barrier that protects and cushions the individual spinal bones from scraping against each other. However, when living with DDD, the joints may not be sufficiently separating the spine. This leads to bone scraping against bone, otherwise known as osteoarthritis.
The symptoms of your Degenerative Disc Disease may vary in frequency, severity, and location along your spine. This will depend on how far the degeneration has gone, and what part of the spine is affected. Common symptoms include:
- Sharp, chronic back pain
- Pain flare-ups in the back
- Extending pain to neck, buttocks or thighs
- Pain that lessens with laying down
- Pain that is reduced with stretching or walking
- Extended periods of sitting or standing making pain worse
- Lifting, bending, or twisting makes pain worse
DDD and the Inability to Work
If you are unable to perform at work because of your Degenerative Disc Disease, you should consider filing for long-term disability insurance. Your disability insurance company will want to see a record of the extent of your disability, including proper diagnosis, and medical evidence supporting your inability to work. If you have a sedentary job, you will need to prove that your condition makes it difficult to remain at your desk for long periods of time. For physical jobs, you would have to prove that your condition limits your ability to perform work tasks, for example. Pain management may require you to take more breaks, or step away from your work. This can make it difficult for you to fulfill your quotas or get all of your tasks done.
Providing the insurance company with a record of how your Degenerative Disc Disease limits your ability to perform at work is essential to building your case. Your condition could be severely impeding your ability to function properly in the workplace.
Proving Your Degenerative Disc Disease as a Disability
While your pain may be very debilitating, insurance companies can often be dismissive of it. Because pain is subjective, they will often try to dismiss its relevance to your condition. As such, you will need to provide objective medical evidence of your condition. With the right evidence, you can prove the disabling nature of your DDD. Overall, this will make the insurance company more likely to approve.
Receiving Proper Diagnosis
Generally, the first step in building your case is a proper diagnosis. People usually don’t know something is wrong until they experience back pain from their DDD. However, by the time you experience this pain, the degeneration is likely quite advanced. If you are having chronic back pain, your doctor may suggest you go for spinal imaging tests. X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans can provide imaging of your DDD, and help provide a diagnosis. These images can also be beneficial in building your case. Your doctor can measure the differences between your weakened disc(s) to those of the other discs in your spine. This will help them understand the level of progression of your DDD. Other tests may be necessary to determine if you have other associated conditions as well. This can be important for ensuring that your back pain can be properly treated.
Documenting Pain & Other Symptoms
While your pain can be considered subjective, it can still be helpful in determining your disability. Whenever you see your doctor, be sure to discuss the frequency and severity of your pain, as well as other symptoms you may be feeling. Additionally, document your symptoms daily. Use a journal to document the level of pain you experience each day. A pain scale of 1-10 is fairly standard. Write down any other symptoms you have that day as well.
Functional Capacity Evaluation for Your DDD
A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is a type of test that helps to objectively prove your capacity for physical work. This can include sitting, standing, lifting, pushing, balancing, and more. It also measures the level of fatigue you experience. It can be a helpful way to provide data on how your back condition and the pain you experience limit your ability to work.
An FCE is an objective form of medical evidence that can be an important factor in proving your disability. It can be used to help support your diagnosis, and provide support for your long-term disability insurance claim.
Seeking Appropriate Treatment for your Degenerative Disc Disease
Generally, the insurance company will also want to see evidence that you are seeking treatment for your condition when applying for long-term disability insurance. Furthermore, they will likely want to see that you continue to treat your condition after you are approved. Otherwise, they may deny your claim or end your benefits.
Surgery for DDD
Spinal fusion is a common surgical option for degenerative disc disease. During this procedure, surgeons fuse the vertebrae on either side of the degenerated disc by using live bone grafts. This helps the bone graft grow into a sturdy and rigid piece that restores the stability of the spine. If the degeneration is severe enough, your surgeon may fuse additional vertebrae to help with rigidity.
Unfortunately, the recovery process for spinal fusion can be long and arduous. Additionally, the surgery may not always be successful. You will likely be out of work for a long time recovering from your surgery. As such, it is important to file your long-term disability claim as soon as possible. Your disability attorney can help you compile your application.
Pain management is an important part of treatment for degenerative disc disease. Before and after surgery, pain management can be necessary for you to live with this condition. In the event that you are unable to get the surgery, or if it is unsuccessful, pain management is likely your best way of dealing with your DDD.
Physical therapy is the least invasive of the treatment options for pain management. Generally, physical therapy is paired with other treatment options. Prescription pain medications can also be suitable for treatment. These will usually consist of muscle relaxers or narcotics. Additionally, epidural steroid injections into the spine can help relieve pain. These injections can provide temporary relief for weeks or months at a time.
Can an Attorney Help Me Get Long-Term Disability for Degenerative Disc Disease?
If you are looking to file a long-term disability claim for your spinal condition, you should seek out an experienced attorney. At D’Agostino & Associates, we help people living with disabling conditions such as DDD file long-term disability claims. We help you through the process step by step to help you build a strong case. Our law team is here for you.
At D’Agostino & Associates, our team of lawyers can help you sort through all the details, understand what you are entitled to, and fight to get what you deserve. D’Agostino & Associates P.C. has offices in New York and New Jersey. Contact us, or call us at 1-888-245-2924 to schedule a free consultation with our attorneys.