Musculoskeletal Disorders and Disability

Social Security’s rules recognize a wide variety of medical conditions which, if severe enough, may qualify for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration.

The first category includes musculoskeletal conditions. Your musculoskeletal system is comprised of all of the bones and the muscles in your body that allow movement, including body’s bones (the skeleton), muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other connective tissues. Because this system includes so many different parts and areas of your body, a severe problem within the musculoskeletal system can disable you from working.

The following is a list of how the Social Security Administration evaluates the most common bone, muscle and connective tissue impairments in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) claims and in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit claims:

Joint Problems

SSDI or SSI Disability for Osteoarthritis
When a claimant’s arthritis starts to severely limit his or her mobility or use of his or her hands, the claimant may qualify for disability benefits.

Social Security Disability (or SSI) for Shoulder Pain & Shoulder Dysfunctions
Social Security does not have a specific Listing of Impairment for shoulder injuries. Whether you qualify for disability due to a shourlder impairment depends on the problem, the resulting limitations the impairment causes, and your long term prognosis.

Can I Qualify for SSDI or SSI with Degenerative Joint Disease?
Social Security evaluates degenerative joint disease depending on whether the degenerative disease is in your spine (typically called Degenerative Disc Disease) or in your joints.

Can I Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Neck Pain
Yes. You may be approved for disability benefits on the basis of neck problems.

Bilateral Hip Replacement and Disability
Whether you can receive SSDI or SSI disability after double hip replacement surgery depends upon many variables, such as whether your recover is expected to keep you from working for at least one year.

Disability Benefits for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
If you have vascular (or regular) Ehlers-Danlos Syndrom (EDS) with severe symptoms that keep you from working full time, you may qualify for disability.

Additional joint problems…

Problems Affecting Muscles and Ligaments

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Many disability examiners do not approve carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) upon initial application or on reconsideration. However, many  applicants with carpal tunnel syndrome have been successful in winning disability benefits on appeal, especially when combined with other impairments.

Can You Qualify for SSDI or SSI Disability Benefits for a Torn ACL?
If you are over 50 years old, have a history of manual labor, and you can no longer do things like stoop, squat, kneel, crawl, or lift heavy items, you may qualify for disability benefits under the GRIDs.

Does My Sciatica Qualify For Disability Benefits?
It is difficult to qualify for disability benefits based on sciatica alone, unless you have other severe impairments to combine with it in the evaluation process.

Disability for Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries that leave extensive skin lesions or take longer than one year to heal may qualify you for Social Security disability benefits.

Additional muscle problems…

Problems Affecting the Bones

Social Security Disability (SSDI & SSI) for Avascular Necrosis
If you can show that your avascular necrosis is so severe as to prevent you from working on a full time continuous basis, Social Security may approve your disability claim and pay cash benefits.

Disability Benefits For Bone Spurs
When bone spurs impact your ability to use your arms or your ability to walk effectively, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Additional bone problems…

Listings of Impairment

The following Musculoskeletal System conditions are listed in Social Security’s Listings of Impairment: gross anatomical deformity of a joint (e.g., subluxation, contracture, bony or fibrous ankylosis, instability); Disorders of the spine -lumbar, thoracic, or cervical (e.g., herniated nucleus pulposus, HNP, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis, vertebral fracture); amputation; hemipelvectomy or hip disarticulation; fracture of the femur, tibia, pelvis, or one or more of the tarsal bones with nonunion; fracture of an upper extremity with nonunion of a fracture of the shaft of the humerus, radius, or ulna; severe burns; and carpal tunnel syndrome.

The Social Security Administration breaks musculoskeletal disorders down into several categories:

  • Joints. Disorders involving joints, including the knees, hips, ankles, shoulders, elbows, wrists, etc., are judged based upon how they affect the claimant’s ability to walk, push, pull, stand, sit, lift, grip and manipulate objects. Social Security will seek to determine whether the claimant could continue to work with reasonable accommodation.
  • Spine. The SSA will determine whether a spinal disorder affects the claimant’s ability to move, perform standard work tasks, sit, stand, or concentrate.
  • Amputations. Two limbs typically need to be amputated to qualify for SSDI or SSI (though a claimant may qualify with one amputated limb in some instances). The claimant will need to show that prosthetic devices could not be used to help him or her work again.
  • Fractures. Fractures can qualify for disability benefits in some instances, but the claimant must be able to show that the fracture is expected to make it impossible for him or her to work for a year or longer.

For most musculoskeletal conditions, you will need to provide medical records as evidence to support the claim.  Medical imaging – such as an X-ray, CT scan (sometimes called a “cat scan”), MRI, etc. – is generally accepted as one piece of evidence or proof of the disability. Depending upon the type of musculoskeletal condition, the claimant may also have to undergo a physical consultative examination.

Some musculoskeletal conditions may actually improve with time. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you will need to demonstrate that your disability has lasted or is expected to last twelve months or longer. It is important that those who are claiming disability benefits due to musculoskeletal conditions continue treating with their doctors. As parts of its decision, the SSA will consider whether you have been following your doctor’s prescribed treatments and whether they have had an impact on your condition.

Detailed List of Musculoskeletal Conditions

The following is a more detailed list of musculoskeletal conditions:

  • Amputation
  • Anterior Poliomyelitis
  • Back Pain
  • Bone Spurs
  • Bursitis
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Gout
  • Major Dysfunction of a Joint
  • spine Disorders
  • Paralysis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Joint Pain
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fracture of the Femur, Tibia, or Pelvis
  • Fracture of an Upper Extremity
  • Herniated Disc
  • Hip Replacement
  • Inflammatory Arthritis
  • Lumbar Stenosis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Spinal Arachnoiditis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Reflex Sympathetic Disorder
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Ruptured Disc
  • Soft Tissue Injury (Burns)
  • Torn ACL
  • Undifferentiated and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
  • Shoulder Replacement
  • Whiplash
  • Neck Pain and Neck Problems
  • Shoulder Pain and Shoulder Problems
  • Club Foot Deformity
  • Piriformis Syndrome
  • Avascular Necrosis