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Degenerative Disc Disease and How It Impacts Your Ability to Work

July 8, 2017
Degenerative Disc Disease and How It Impacts Your Ability to Work

Degenerative disc disease occurs when the cartilage discs between your vertebrae begin to shrink and deteriorate. Many older individuals experience some amount of disc degeneration, but not all cases cause pain. If you have disc degeneration that causes pain without an identifiable cause, you are considered to have degenerative disc disease.

Discs can become damaged for several reasons, including general wear and tear with age. Injuries and accidents can also damage the discs, as can repetitive movements during work, sports, or other activities. Once they become damaged, discs cannot repair themselves.

The most common symptom of degenerative disc disease is pain in the low back or neck, depending on where the deterioration is occurring. Pain can also radiate into the buttocks, things, or legs. Pain may flare up or subside during different activities for different people.  

Your doctor will use an MRI and other imaging tests to look at your spinal discs, but they will also want to know about your symptoms and functional limitations. You may be asked to bend, twist, or rotate to see if any limitations exist, or if certain movements cause pain.

Treatment of degenerative disc disease typically starts conservatively with physical therapy to increase strength and mobility, along with pain management. Some people may be advised to avoid playing in sports or completing certain activities to avoid exacerbating their back pain. 

Surgery can be prescribed to relieve pain from degenerative disc disease as a last resort. Spinal fusion or the insertion of artificial discs are two surgical treatments used to alleviate pain caused by disc deterioration.

If your back pain becomes severe enough that it prevents you from working, you should consider filing a claim for long-term disability benefits. Back pain is one of the most common claims that insurance companies receive, and they often deny these claims due to a lack of objective evidence.

Be sure to provide evidence of all of your symptoms and limitations, and be as specific as possible. If you can show that your functional limitations prevent you from performing your job, you may be able to have your claim approved.

If your claim for long-term disability benefits has been denied, consult with a long-term disability attorney to learn more about the appeals process.

Contact the experienced ERISA lawyers at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick to discuss your right to appeal a disability claim denial.  Visit our website to learn more about disability claim denials and to download our free ERISA law guide.