Whether from an accident or a chronic condition, nerve damage can be a serious condition to deal with. The pain of the damage to your nervous system alone can be debilitating. But, when coupled with other symptoms, you may be unable to go about your daily life. Depending on the severity of the damage, your nerves may heal over time, or require surgical intervention. Either way, the process can take time. If you are suffering from nerve damage that is hindering your daily activities and limiting your ability to work, you may be eligible for long-term disability benefits from your insurance.
Is Nerve Damage a Disability?
Nerve damage can be considered a disability. Damage to your peripheral nerves, or those outside of your brain and spine, can affect various parts of your body. This can affect various systems of the body but is often associated with symptoms in the limbs. This is referred to as Peripheral Neuropathy. Nerve damage to the areas of the brain and spine can affect more areas of the body, as they are the control center of the nervous system. Because of this, severe damage to the central nervous system can cause partial or full-body debilitation. An example of this might be when a car crash impacts the spine, leaving the individual unable to move or feel their legs.
Different Types of Nerves
There are different types of nerves that serve different purposes within the nervous system. Because of this, the type of nerve or nerves that become damaged can affect the symptoms you receive. There are 2 main nerve types.
Sensory nerves transport signals that indicate information from the senses. These include touch, sense, smell, taste, sight, and hearing.
Motor nerves transport signals to the muscles, organs, and glands. This type of nerve helps the body to move and function. The motor nerves that work with organs and glands are autonomic, meaning that the impulses and feedback are subconscious. Breathing and digestion are 2 examples of autonomic nerve functions.
Additionally, you have special types of nerves for the central nervous system. These are the cranial and spinal nerves. They branch out from the brain and spine respectively. Cranial nerves help you perform sensory functions, move your face, etc. Spinal nerves help carry sensations from the other parts of the body to the brain, and vice versa. They act as the bridge between the brain and the body. Some reflexive responses are also triggered by spinal nerve processes.
Sources of Nerve Damage
Nerve damage can come from a variety of sources. Some injuries, illnesses, and diseases can lead to nerve damage of some kind. Overusing certain muscles or joints over time can also lead to nerve damage. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, for example, is a condition where repetitive stresses cause compression of the median nerve in the wrist. Peripheral Neuropathy is a condition brought on by damage to one or more peripheral nerves. Metabolic conditions, such as diabetes can damage nerves.
Some neck or back injuries can also cause nerve damage. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) can also lead to damage to the central nervous system. Injuries such as car accidents, traumatic falls, and spinal injuries can also lead to nerve damage. Some autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, could cause damage to the nervous system. Additionally, infections like Lyme disease can also cause damage to nerves. Tumors on the nerve tissue, known as neuromas, can also be a source of nerve damage.
Symptoms of Nerve Damage
Damage to the nerves can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on the type of nerves affected. Additionally, the level of damage to the nerve can affect the frequency and severity of symptoms. below, we will discuss some common symptoms of damage to the different types of nerves. Be sure to discuss any and all symptoms you are experiencing with your doctors. Having a record of your symptoms can allow them to advise proper treatment, while ensuring a more accurate diagnosis of your condition.
Central Nervous System Damage
Depending on the cause and location of the injury, there is a wide assortment of symptoms associated with central nervous system damage. Some of the more common symptoms are listed below.
- Persistent or sudden onset headaches/migraines
- Loss of feeling
- Tingling sensations or numbness in the body
- Weakness and loss of muscle strength
- Vision issues, such as sight loss or double vision
- Memory loss
- Impaired cognitive function
- Coordination issues
- Muscle stiffness/rigidity
- Tremors and seizures
- Back pain that radiates out to the extremities
- Slurred speech
- New language impairment
- Partial or full paralysis
Damage to the Sensory Nerves
Sensory nerve damage will affect your ability to feel and react to stimuli in the affected region of the body. You may also feel shooting or tingling pain in and around the damaged nerves. Sensory nerve damage most commonly affects the extremities.
Motor Nerve Damage
Damage to motor nerves can lead to symptoms that affect muscle and joint use. Common symptoms include:
- Muscle twitching
- Involuntary movement
- Poor reflexes
- Issues with controlling movement
This damage is most commonly seen when dealing with fine motor movements. Issues in controlling movement are often seen with grasping, talking, walking, and foot placement.
Damage to Autonomic Nerves
When you suffer damage to autonomic nerves, you may have trouble controlling bodily functions. Symptoms of autonomic nerve damage may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Problems with swallowing
- Loss of bladder/bowel control
- Abnormally high or low blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Glandular issues
Proving Your Nerve Damage For Long-Term Disability
In order for any condition to be approved by a long-term disability insurance company, you must first prove that you are disabled. Firstly, you must provide medical evidence of a diagnosis. This may include diagnostic testing, imaging tests, and more. Your doctor’s notes regarding your symptoms and diagnosis can be an important aspect of this proof. If you go to a neurologist or other specialist for your condition, their appointment notes can also be helpful. You may also want to ask a supportive doctor to provide a statement. An Attending Physician’s Statement can go a long way in providing support to your claim.
Tests that can confirm your nerve damage can be vital to your claim. Clinical testing that can provide evidence of nerve damage may include:
- Nerve Conduction Studies (NCV)
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Nerve biopsy
- Skin biopsy
Appropriate Treatment for your Nerve Damage
With any condition, the insurance company will want you to provide proof that you are actively seeking “appropriate treatment.” Generally, this means that you are taking steps to improve your condition. This means going to doctor’s appointments as needed, taking medications, and following recommendations for treatment. These may include lifestyle changes, seeing a physical therapist or another specialist if needed, etc. Without appropriate treatment, the insurance agency may not approve your benefits. If you receive approval, the agency will need to see that you are continuing treatment. Otherwise, they may terminate your benefits for “non-compliance.”
Appropriate treatment for nerve damage can vary depending on the cause and severity of your condition. If your nerve damage is the result of a chronic condition, treating and managing it is the best practice. On the other hand, nerve damage from injuries may require you to wait for the injury to heal. Take prescribed medications as recommended, and see the specialists as needed. Appropriate care for your nerve pain may include a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (“TENS”) device or pain medications. For more severe damage, surgical intervention may be necessary for your continuing care.
Proving Your Inability To Work
Generally, you will need to provide evidence of how your condition is severe enough that it prevents you from working. Whether your job is more physical or sedentary, you can show how your nerve damage limits your capacity for work. This could include how your pain distracts you from work and prevents you from staying productive. Other symptoms, such as those affecting your extremities, can make it hard to work at a computer or perform physical work tasks. Providing the insurance company with information about how your symptoms limit your ability to perform work tasks is an important aspect of your long-term disability claim.