Nearly 2 in 5 people are affected by sciatica at least once in their lives. But can you get disability for sciatica? Can you prove that the sciatic nerve pain is so debilitating that it impacts your ability to work? Let us understand more in the article below.
Sciatica refers to the pain caused by irritation to the sciatic nerve. It can trigger shooting pains in the buttocks, traveling through one or both legs (but typically only one leg). Sciatica is often caused by issues in the spine or back like disc herniation, spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, bone spurs tumors, spondylolisthesis, or even trauma.
Most of the time, sciatica can be treated, and the symptoms can be resolved by simple relaxation and ice. In fact, sciatica is so common that nearly 40% of people experience it once in their lives.
Sometimes, one or more of the sciatic nerve’s root structures are compressed, which causes an inability to feel and causes weakness within the affected leg or even urinary incontinence. This is referred to as “lumbar radiculopathy.”
However, it is not very easy to qualify for disability due to sciatica, as in most cases, the pain is manageable and does not inhibit you from doing your work. To be eligible for the benefits, you may have to prove that your medical condition makes it challenging for you to do your job.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica refers to nerve pain resulting from irritation or injury of the sciatic nerve located in the buttock or gluteal region. It is also the longest and largest (almost as wide as a finger) nerve in the body.
The sciatic nerve has five nerve roots. Two originate in the back of your lower part, known as the lumbar spine, and three from the top segment of the spine, known as the sacrum. Five nerve roots join together to make a left and right sciatic nerve.
On the opposite side of the body, there is a sciatic nerve located between your buttocks, hips, and down your leg, that ends at the knee—the sciatic nerve branches into different nerves that run down your leg and into your feet and toes.
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What are the 4 types of sciatica?
- Acute sciatica – Acute sciatica is a new appearance or pain, ranging from 4 to 8 weeks of pain in the sciatic nerve. The pain could be treated alone and does not usually require medical attention.
- Chronic Sciatica – Chronic sciatica is a chronic pain in the sciatic nerve that persists for more than eight weeks and will usually not disappear by self-management. Based on this reason, chronic sciatica could require surgery or nonsurgical treatment.
- Alternating Sciatica – Alternating sciatica refers to sciatic nerve pain that is felt in both legs at times. This sciatica is uncommon and can be caused by degenerative issues that affect the sacroiliac joint.
- Bilateral Sciatica – Bilateral sciatica is simultaneous leg pain in both legs. The type of sciatica described is uncommon and can be caused by degenerative changes to the disc and vertebrae at various spinal levels or from severe illnesses like cauda-equina syndrome.
How is Sciatica Diagnosed?
The first step is to have your doctor examine your medical health history. Then, they’ll inquire about your health concerns.
You’ll be asked to walk to ensure how your spine handles your weight in your physical exam. It is possible to stroll on toes and heels to assess whether you have strength in the muscles of the calf. Your provider may also do a straight leg raise test. To do this test, lay down, keeping your knees straight.
The doctor will record the exact spot where pain starts by gradually raising your leg and continually asking you about the pain.
This test will help identify the affected nerve. It can also help identify if there’s an issue with one of the discs in your spinal column (such as degenerative disc disease). It is also suggested to stretch and perform other movements to identify pain and test the flexibility and strength of your muscles.
Other tests and more could be conducted based on what your healthcare provider finds during your physical examination imaging. This could include:
- X-rays of the spine detect disc issues, spinal fractures, cancers, infections, or bone spurs.
- MRI & CT scans to view detailed images of the bone and soft tissue of the rear. MRIs are typically performed for confirmation of the sciatica diagnosis. An MRI could reveal pressure on nerves or disks and any other arthritic issue that could be pressuring a nerve.
- Nerve conduction velocity: This test checks if electrical impulses are moving properly through the nerve and how your muscles are responding to those impulses.
- Myelogram to identify if a vertebrae disk is the cause of discomfort.
Medication and Home Remedies For Sciatica
There are several ways you can reduce sciatica pain. Not all of them work for every individual, so you need to try out the ideas and see what works best for you. Here are some medications that are commonly suggested
- Anti inflammatories such as Aspirin
- Muscle relaxants (such as Thiocolchicoside, Chlorxoxazone, Tizanidine, Carisoprodol)
- Narcotics (such as Hydrocodone, Codeine, Oxycodone)
- Steroid injections
Here are some common home remedies that can help:
- Applying hot and cold packs
- Stretching exercises
- Massage in the lower back area (if you have chronic back pain)
- Cartain yoga poses
- TENS machines
- Taking turmeric in milk
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Can I Get Disability for Sciatica?
It’s not common to be able to claim disability benefits due to sciatica as a single factor. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will have to determine whether your condition prevents you from working a full-time job.
The Social Security Administration will first look for signs of nerve spinal stenosis or compression of the root (narrowing) within your medical documents to make this determination. If there is, the agency will determine whether you comply with the listing requirements for either disorder that generally causes extreme difficulties walking.
If you don’t meet the requirements for either condition, the SSA will assess your ability to determine if you can continue doing the job you were doing before sciatica. If it believes that you can, then your claim will be rejected. However, suppose the SSA considers that you can’t do your previous job. In that case, The agency will then decide if any tasks are less demanding to complete despite sciatica due to your age, education level, and skills.
Is Sciatica a Disability?
If you’re sure that you’re eligible to receive SSDI or SSI according to your employment background or income, the second step would be to demonstrate that sciatica is a qualifying condition for your disability claim. To prove that yours is a disability under your Social Security regulations, you must prove:
- You’re qualified for SSDI or SSI depending on your employment record or your income
- You are not able to perform any significant or lucrative job due to your sciatica
- The disability caused by your sciatica is confirmed through objective medical evidence and
- The limitation caused by your sciatica has been present or will continue for a minimum of 12 consecutive months.
It’s not enough to prove that your sciatica makes it difficult for you to complete your work. To satisfy the second requirement, the medical examination must demonstrate that your sciatica has become so extreme that you cannot perform any job in which you are competent.
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How Social Security Evaluates What You Can Still Do?
To evaluate your capabilities for assessing your abilities, Social Security will prepare a “residual functional capacity” assessment (RFC).
An RFC is a comprehensive report that explains the level of exercise you can perform (heavy, medium, or light) and how sciatica can affect how you perform work-related tasks, including walking, standing, stooping, climbing, and sitting.
The most common symptom of sciatica is weakness or numbness in the affected leg. Because numbness may limit your ability to balance, climb and walk and balance, an RFC for those suffering from these severe symptoms could declare that the person can only do these things on a limited basis.
A person with this limitation will likely be unable to perform the work of construction or any other task which requires coordination and strength of the lower legs. However, some jobs do not require climbing and balance or much walking.
Does The Extent of Pain Impact The SSA’s Decision?
Sciatica can result in severe pain, and SSA will evaluate the effects of persistent pain on the ability of a person to perform their job. Since the pain can be subjective and hard to quantify by objective proof, your medical records must include clear descriptions of your pain and discuss your efforts to treat the discomfort.
- how your pain impacts your everyday life
- the exact location, the intensity, duration, and the frequency of your pain
- medicines used to treat discomfort (including dosages of the medications, their side effects, and efficacy)
- Other pain treatment options you’ve tried (such as physical therapy or acupuncture) and
- any other factor that may influence the severity of any other variables that affect you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is sciatica a lifelong condition?
If the nerve that controls sciatica has been damaged, it may cause numbness or nerve-tingling, or in more severe cases, weak legs or knees. If you leave it in limbo, the more time it will take for weakness and numbness to disappear, and maybe long-lasting.
Can I get a disability for a pinched nerve?
If the nerve that regulates sciatica has been damaged, it could cause numbness, nerve-tingling, or in more severe instances, weak knees or legs. If left in limbo, the longer it will be for the numbness and weakness to go away could be permanent.
What happens if sciatica is left untreated?
When the nerve that controls sciatica has been damaged, it can cause nerve tingling, numbness, or in more severe cases, weak legs or knees. If it’s left in limbo, the longer it will take for the numbness and weakness to disappear and may even turn permanent.
Should I walk with sciatica?
Walking can be an amazingly efficient method of relieving sciatic pain since regular exercise triggers the release of endorphins that fight pain and decreases inflammation. However, wrong posture when walking can cause a flare-up in your sciatica symptoms.
When does sciatica become Unbearable?
Sciatica is considered chronic when it persists for more than six weeks and doesn’t improve. Doctors generally advise waiting for the problem to be resolved without medical treatment if the pain becomes severe or lasts longer than twelve months.
A Few Final Words
When it comes to having the claim for disability benefits for sciatica approved, it will require evidence of how it affects the patient’s life in sufficient ways and that it meets the criteria set by the Social Security Administration.
If it’s not done correctly or sufficiently, the claim will be rejected. It is highly recommended that you seek the assistance of a social Disability Advocate to assist with the process of submitting this claim. Thank you for reading the article, we hope we covered all your doubts. For further queries, do drop us a word in the comments.