We hear it all the time: “Oh, my aching back!” In fact, a person who has no back problems is a very lucky person, since so many Americans suffer from severe back pain. One back condition that causes a great number of people to apply for Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefits is “degenerative disc disease,” a sometimes crippling condition that can make it impossible to work.

In 2010, the SSA disability program reported that diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue were the most common condition covered, with a whopping 30.3 percent of all beneficiaries suffering from this type of problem.

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Well, in the first place it is misnamed, as this condition is not really a disease. Over time, everyone experiences the effects of aging. This includes disc degeneration. However, not everyone ends up with the sometimes-severe low back pain and even disability that this condition can cause.

Your spinal discs are soft, disk-shaped “shock absorbers” that separate the bones in your spine. When these discs are disturbed or degenerate, basic changes can occur, such as:

  • Fluid loss in the discs.
  • Cracks or tears in the outer layer of the discs.
  • The development of bone spurs, which are growths that can cause pressure on the spinal cord itself and/or the nerve roots.

Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease can be caused by:

  • Trauma. Accidents, such as falls, can result in a herniated disc, which can be the beginning of degeneration.
  • The aging process. As you age, the discs naturally begin to degenerate, slowly lessening the space between the vertebrae. 
  • Wear and tear. Those who work in occupations that require physical labor, such as heavy lifting, are more likely to experience this condition. In addition, obesity can increase a person’s chances of developing degenerative disc disease.
  • Related conditions. Osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis are conditions that are related to degenerative disc disease, along with bone disease, tumors, and infections.

Pain Associated With Degenerative Disc Disease

If you suffer from this condition, you may have back pain (especially in the low back) and neck pain. However, many patients with degenerative disc disease also experience pain in their arms, buttocks, or legs. The pain typically worsens when bending over, twisting, or reaching overhead. Numbness and/or tingling in the legs and arms are also common complaints. 

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer