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Qualifying Conditions

Getting Long-Term Disability for Intervertebral Disc Syndrome (IVDS)

Managing a condition such as Intervertebral Disc Syndrome (IVDS) can be extremely stressful, not to mention painful, and the added challenge of fighting the insurance company for long-term disability (LTD) benefits can often be too much.  The process of filing a long-term disability claim is not always straightforward, and wrongful denials by the insurance company are common.

The team of attorneys and professionals at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD works diligently and effectively on behalf of our clients in pursuit of the disability benefits to which they are entitled.

Contact us at 401-331-6300 for a free consultation to see if we can assist with your long-term disability claim or appeal.

Understanding Intervertebral Disc Syndrome (IVDS)

Intervertebral Disc Syndrome (IVDS) is a back condition in which one or more intervertebral disc(s) or disc fragments—the bones that make up the spine—are displaced or break down at any level of the spine (i.e., lumbar, cervical, or thoracic).  The intervertebral discs provide cushioning between vertebrae and absorb pressure put on the spine.  IVDS can cause chronic pain in the back or the neck and is typically worsened by sitting or bending, as well as twisting and lifting objects.  Intervertebral Disc Syndrome can also cause nerve pain in the legs and arms, depending on where in the spine the displaced disc is located.

As a disc degenerates, small bony outgrowths (bone spurs) may form at the edges of the affected vertebrae.  These bone spurs may pinch (compress) the spinal nerves, leading to weakness or numbness in the arms or legs.  If the bone spurs compress the spinal cord, affected individuals can develop problems with walking and bladder and bowel control.  Over time, a degenerating disc may break down completely and leave no space between vertebrae, which can result in impaired movement, pain, and nerve damage.

Causes of IVDS

Intervertebral Disc Syndrome is typically caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, many of which remain unidentified.  Researchers have identified variations in several genes that may increase a person’s risk of developing IVDS.  The genes most associated with IVDS, which provide instructions for producing proteins, are called collagens, a family of proteins that strengthen and support connective tissues, such as skin, bone, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.

Collagens form a network of fibers that create structure and stability within the intervertebral discs.  It is thought that certain variations in several collagen genes affect the risk of developing intervertebral disc disease by impairing the ability of collagens to interact with each other.  This inability to interact then leads to a decrease in the stability of the disc, ultimately leading to its degeneration.

Normal variations in genes related to the body’s immune function are also associated with an increased risk of developing Intervertebral Disc Syndrome.  These genes are crucial in triggering an immune response when the body detects a foreign invader, such as a virus.  It is thought that these gene variants can lead to an immune response that results in inflamed and hydrated discs, which causes them to deteriorate.

Variations in genes that play roles in the development and maintenance of the intervertebral discs and vertebrae have also been found to be associated with Intervertebral Disc Syndrome, and these variations can lead to disc degeneration and herniation.   Additionally, nongenetic factors that contribute to the risk of intervertebral disc disease are also being studied. These factors include aging, smoking, obesity, chronic inflammation, and driving for long periods of time.

Treatment Options for IVDS

Treatment for Intervertebral Disc Syndrome typically begins with nonsurgical methods that may provide sufficient symptom relief.  The first step is usually scheduling an appointment with a doctor, such as an orthopedic or spine specialist, who will examine you and ask questions about your level of pain and ability to function.  The doctor will likely have you undergo an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, which produces detailed images of the organs and tissues in the body.  From there, your doctor will determine which treatment approach will be best based on the severity of your IVDS.

Some of the nonsurgical treatments your doctor may suggest are:

  • Pain control: This treatment focuses on reducing pain from the damaged disc and helping you return to your daily activities.  Methods of pain control may include anti-inflammatory medications, manual manipulation, steroid injections, electrical stimulation, back braces, and heat/ice therapy.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help stretch and strengthen the right muscles to help the back heal, or at least reduce the frequency of, painful flare-ups.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Changes such as working on your posture, losing weight, or giving up smoking can sometimes help reduce stress on the damaged disc and slow down further deterioration.

If your Intervertebral Disc Syndrome is more serious, meaning you are experiencing severe pain or significant loss of function and do not respond to other, nonsurgical treatments, your doctor may recommend a surgical option.  One type of surgery may involve the removal and replacement of the whole or a part of the affected disc (partial or total disc replacement).  Another option is disc removal (discectomy) with spinal fusion that reduces the movement in the damaged spine segment.  Again, it is important to discuss your condition in detail with your doctor so that they can assist you in receiving the most effective treatment for your IVDS.

How Can Intervertebral Disc Syndrome Impact My Ability to Work?

Intervertebral Disc Syndrome can have an incredibly debilitating impact on your ability to perform the duties of your job.  Regardless of whether you have a physically demanding job or one that is more sedentary, the back pain caused by IVDS will likely prevent you from doing many of the tasks your job requires.  If you work in a job that requires you to be very physically active, such as a fitness instructor or a construction worker, it is likely that you will be unable to perform any motions that involve twisting, bending, or lifting objects, no matter their weight, due to the pain in your back and neck.  Alternatively, if your job involves sitting or being stationary for long periods of time, as is the case for truck drivers or people who work at a desk all day, you may also be unable to work.

In addition to chronic pain in the neck and back, Intervertebral Disc Syndrome can also cause nerve pain throughout the arms and legs in many cases.  This could further impact your ability to work by restricting the number of duties you are able to complete even more.  The pain you experience as a result of your IVDS could be highly distracting, reducing your ability to focus and maintain a level of productivity at work.  It could also cause fatigue that may prohibit you from completing an 8-hour workday without taking multiple breaks or naps, which are often not allowed.  Furthermore, some treatment options may also impact your ability to function normally, both at work and in your daily life.  For example, having to wear a back brace would severely limit your mobility, while having a disc replacement or removal surgery would mean that you would need to cease work entirely to rest at home or in the hospital for a few weeks.

Let Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick Fight for You

The team of experienced professionals and attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick is well-versed in the often-difficult claim and appeal process for long-term disability benefits.  If your initial claim is denied, we may be able to help you build a strong case for appeal.

Our team will work with your doctors to obtain all the necessary documentation to show the severity of your IVDS and the impact it has on your ability to work.  If necessary, we can request opinions from additional vocational or medical experts in order to further demonstrate the impact of your Intervertebral Disc Syndrome.  We may also gather supporting evidence from your family and friends, as they can attest to how your condition and subsequent pain affects the activities of your daily life.

Contact us for a complimentary initial consultation, during which we will review your case and determine if we will be able to assist.  Let CCK help you get the long-term disability benefits to which you are entitled.