Can someone with cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerve) receive Social Security Disability Benefits?

This article is not offered as medical advice regarding cervical spine disability. Please consult your medical provider if you are having symptoms.

“Cervical radiculopathy is the damage or disturbance of nerve function that results if one of the nerve roots near the cervical vertebrae is compressed. Damage to nerve roots in the cervical spine can cause pain and the loss of sensation in different parts of the upper extremities, depending on where the damaged roots are located.”  via Cervical Radiculopathy: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.

Cervical radiculopathy can be caused by trauma, degenerative changes or anything that puts pressure on the nerve root. While you may have neck pain, you may also have symptoms in your hands. You can have radicular symptoms such as numbness, tingling and loss of coordination in your fingers in your upper extremity.

If you are having lower extremity pain (lumbar radiculopathy), that may be related to your lumbar spine. Read Back Pain and Social Security Disability

Pain medication, steroids, collars or physical therapy (cervical traction) can be used to help with your neck pain. Unfortunately, you can have chronic pain and muscle weakness. If your cervical radiculopathy does not improve, a cervical fusion may be recommended.

The Social Security Administration can evaluate your cervical issues under Listing 1.04, Disorders of the Spine. This listing requires compromise of a nerve root AND evidence of pain, limitation of motion, motor loss OR arachnoiditis OR pseudoclaudication.

You demonstrate the above by having medical evidence (an x-ray, MRI, CT scan or other appropriate testing) demonstrating nerve root compression. The subjective evidence of pain, numbness, limitation of motion and motor loss are symptoms that should be reported to your doctor. In my practice, I have rarely seen someone who suffers from arachnoiditis or pseudoclaudication. Pain, limitation of motion of the spine or motor loss are much more common symptoms.

Has your cervical radiculopathy affected your ability to turn your head, move your fingers or use your upper extremities? If so, you may meet this listing. In many cases, a cervical disc fusion can alleviate your symptoms. But some people fail to improve even after having surgery.

Even if you do not meet Listing 1.04, your disability claim could still be approved on the grid rules. The Medical-Vocational Guidelines (grids) may help you be found disabled if you are age 50 or older and your cervical radiculopathy has affected your ability to lift and carry.

During my Social Security Disability hearings, clients with cervical radiculopathy are often asked the below questions:

  1. What makes your cervical pain and numbness better? Worse?
  2. Has your pain gotten worse, stayed the same or gotten better since you filed for disability?
  3. How much weight can you lift without pain?
  4. Do you frequently drop items? Examples…
  5. Do you have muscle spasms or muscle weakness?
  6. Do you have spinal pain with looking up, down or to the side?
  7. Have you tried pain medications, physical therapy, injections, a pain stimulator, etc.?
  8. Did any of the above therapies help you as a patient?
  9. Have your doctors discussed a cervical spine surgery with you?

If you are unable to work due to your cervical radiculopathy, file a claim for disability benefits as soon as possible and give the Bishop Law Firm a call. We want to help!

Also read Social Security Disability Process

This post was last updated on April 19, 2020.