X-Ray Image Of Human Chest for a medical diagnosis. Concept of what neck problems quality for disability

When neck pain is acute and impacts your ability to perform your normal job duties, it’s possible your neck problems qualify for disability benefits. However, qualification guidelines require that your neck problems match the conditions for neck pain specified in the Social Security disability listings.

Common Neck Pain Symptoms

Many adults in Chicago have likely experienced neck pain at some point in their life, but it’s usually minor pain caused by muscle strain that goes away in several days. People describe neck pain as stiffness or tension in the neck that causes discomfort, headaches, and difficult head mobility. Neck pain may be concentrated on one side or on both sides, making it difficult to look up or down, look over your shoulder, or move your head in any direction. While stiffness and tension are the most common symptoms of minor neck pain, you may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Facial pain
  •  Limited range of movement
  •  Muscle spasms
  • Severe pain when looking up or down
  • Stabbing or burning pain
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms

When you experience neck pain, your symptoms may vary depending on the cause of the pain. For instance, tightness or stiffness in the neck typically points to a cramped muscle, while sharp pain often points to problems with a joint in the neck.

Neck problems and severe neck pain may be caused by a dislocated or slipped disc, an infection in membranes around the spiral cord, meningitis, or a tumor (benign or malignant) that puts pressure on vertebrae discs or the spinal cord. When severe neck pain is caused by these conditions, neck problems qualify for disability benefits to cover certain medical costs. If you experience severe neck pain accompanied by the following symptoms, you should seek medical help right away:

  • Body chills or a high fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Coordination or balance problems
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Radiating pain to other body parts
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs

How Long Does Neck Pain Last?

Depending on the cause and the severity of your neck pain, it may last for several days, several weeks, or several months. If pain is related to a spinal problem, you will need to see a spine specialist who can properly evaluate and diagnose the root cause.

Generally, acute pain will last less than 4 weeks, sub-acute pain will last from 4 to 12 weeks, and chronic pain will last for 12 weeks or longer. Once the cause of your neck pain is evaluated and diagnosed, your doctor can create a treatment plan that may include different types of therapies such as acupuncture, massage, or physical therapy accompanied by pain medications. If non-invasive therapies do not relieve your neck pain or your pain is due to a spinal problem, your doctor may recommend anesthetic and steroid injections, electrical nerve stimulation treatments (TENS), or surgery.

What Are the Disability Requirements for a Spinal Injury?

When neck problems qualify for disability, they must qualify under Social Security disability guidelines. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a Blue Book that lists all qualifying illnesses and injuries along with their specific causes, symptoms, and prognoses for improvement. To qualify for disability benefits, your neck pain condition will be compared to similar conditions in the Blue Book.

Cervical spine conditions are often caused by degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, inflammatory disease, meningitis, whiplash, or cancer. In order to qualify for disability benefits for cervical spine conditions, you must meet the criteria for an official disability listing in the Blue book and show that your condition has limited your abilities to work in your current job. Unless you provide medical evidence that complies with the SSA’s Blue Book guidelines, your condition likely will not qualify for disability.

If your neck pain disability is caused by cervical spine problems, you will need to submit the results of a spinal examination, as well as documents related to your neck’s range of motion. You will also be required to undergo test procedures that include medical imaging results from CT scans, MRIs, Ultrasounds, and X-rays, as well as laboratory findings from blood tests. Since pain is subjective, it’s important to show objective evidence related to the source of your pain.

If your neck problems involve chronic pain, you should know how to qualify for disability benefits with chronic pain. When chronic pain is part of a condition, the SSA may review other listings in the Blue Book with similar symptoms that cause chronic pain. With neck pain caused by cervical spine problems, your condition may be compared to listings for joint dysfunction or rheumatoid arthritis because these conditions create similar symptoms such as stiffness, loss of joint mobility, difficult movements, and chronic pain in the affected body area.

To make sure that your neck problems qualify for disability, you can work with Social Security disability attorneys who have knowledge and experience with Social Security disability claims. In Illinois, disability services are handled by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), so Chicago disability attorneys are well-informed on the requirements for Social Security disability claims and how to get them approved. Your attorney can explain the SSA disability process, help you gather necessary medical documents that support your claim, and work with IDHS to get your disability benefits approved.

Medical Evidence You Need to Provide for Benefits

Before neck problems qualify for disability, the SSA requires documented medical evidence that supports a disability claim. SSA guidelines are strict, so you must submit the requested information in a timely manner. Generally, processing an application for disability benefits takes from 3 to 6 months, so you should apply for benefits as soon as you develop a disability.

In addition to your personal information required, SSA requires the following medical evidence to support a disability claim:

  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of all hospitals, clinics, doctors, and caseworkers who treated you, and the dates of all examinations and treatments
  • Medical records from hospitals, clinics, doctors, and caseworkers that you currently have in your possession
  • Names and results of all imaging and laboratory tests, the date of each test, and the name of the doctor that ordered the test
  •  Names and dosages of all medications you are taking for your diagnosed condition, and the name of the doctor who prescribed them

In addition to the above information, the SSA will ask you to fill out other forms. One form collects information about your medical condition and how it impacts your ability to work. Other forms give hospitals, clinics, doctors, and caseworkers who have treated you permission to send the SSA any additional information about your medical condition.

In 2015, a new regulation took effect in Chicago. It requires Social Security claimants and Social Security lawyers to provide all medical evidence for a claim that would either support or disfavor a Social Security disability claim. New evidence requirements for disability claims additionally modified the “rules of conduct and standards of responsibility” for disability law and legal representatives handling Social Security disability claims.

Submitting Disability Claims in Illinois

Social Security pays disability benefits through two different programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You may apply for either, but you should know the differences between the two programs:

  • SSDI Benefits – based on medical requirements and nonmedical requirements. Benefits are available to workers and their families when the worker has a work history that lasts long enough to pay Social Security taxes and accumulate a required number of work credits.
  • SSI Benefits – based on a person’s financial needs rather than a prior work history, Social Security taxes paid, and accumulated work credits. SSI benefits are available to low-income individuals with a prior work history or no work history at all.

Once you submit your application for benefits and your medical evidence to support your claim, the SSA will review your application, your medical evidence, and your work history. If you meet these requirements, the SSA will forward your case to the Illinois Disability Determination Services Office (IDHS). This state agency will review all the information you submitted and complete your initial disability determination decision.

Doctors and disability specialists in the state agency may ask your doctors for information about your condition. They may also ask your doctors for information about your ability to do work-related activities, such as walking, standing, and sitting, carrying objects, lifting objects over your head, operating machinery, and remembering instructions. However, your doctors do not decide if you meet the SSA’s definition of disability. That decision is made by doctors and disability specialists who are employed by IDHS.

To qualify for disability benefits, your disability must significantly limit your ability to perform basic work activities for at least 12 months. If your neck problems or pain is not severe enough to limit your work activities, you will not have a qualifying disability under SSA guidelines.