Spinal Stenosis and Social Security Disability

Posted August 15, 2014

Spinal stenosis is simply a fancy medical term for the narrowing or pinching of the open space in your spinal canal. It is most frequently used in conjunction with a diagnosis made by a physician or radiologist viewing an MRI or CT scan of the spine. The term “spinal stenosis” does not denote any particular disease process, congenital condition or injury, only the impact the abnormality has on the spinal cord or exiting nerve roots.

The reason that “spinal stenosis” is important in the medical field is that the narrowing (if sufficiently severe)  can pinch or flatten the adjoining tissues, spinal cord or nerve roots to the point that they cause significant symptoms and pain.

If the impact of spinal stenosis is not treated effectively by conservative measures, the most common surgical treatment is called a laminectomy. In a laminectomy, a portion of the lamina and possibly a portion of the spinous process, which are both part of a human vertebra, are removed.

By performing a laminectomy, the surgeon tries to make the opening through which the nerve root exits larger so that it is no longer compressed.

Obviously, spinal stenosis can also be caused by injury or trauma, by degenerative changes, swelling of the discs on to exiting nerve roots, by disc herniations or other abnormalities.

In representing claimants who have “spinal stenosis” in a Social Security Disability claim, it is important to give a medical explanation for subjective pain complaints of the applicants. For this reason, aside from the obvious medical necessity for treatment, the existence of good MRIs, CAT scans, or myelograms go a long way in providing not only effective medical treatment but proving that the individual seeking disability has a valid reason for disabling pain complaints.

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