What is Facet Syndrome?
Facet joints, which are the flat surfaces of the vertebrae that interlock, are located at each vertebral level, lending stability, flexibility and movement to the spine. If these joints become irritated or inflamed they can generate pain down the spine into the buttocks and legs. Facet disease is commonly caused by the deteriorating of cartilage and can be caused by aging, overuse, normal wear and tear and injury.
There are a variety of names used to describe facet syndrome including degenerative joint disease, facet arthritis, facet hypertrophy, and facet joint syndrome. Regardless of the cause of the name of the condition common symptoms may make it difficult for some workers to continue to engage in substantial gainful activities. Common symptoms of facet syndrome occur in either the cervical, lumbar or thoracic spine and can include:
- Severe headaches
- Radiating pain into the upper or lower back
- Limited neck movement
- Severe neck pain
- Lower back pain
Winning SSDI or SSI for Facet Syndrome
If you have a severe back condition the Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate if your condition is as severe as a condition outlined in their SSA Listing of Impairments. Also known as the Blue Book, this listing contains conditions and related symptoms that the SSA acknowledges are generally so severe a claimant cannot work and may qualify for SSI or SSDI.
If your condition does not “meet or exceed” a listing the SSA will determine if you have the residual capacity to work through a process called a medical vocational allowance. Through this process the SSA will consider not only your condition but also your age, work history, work skills and education and decide if you can work your current job, past job or retrain for new work. Under this process it will be easier for older claimants to prove they cannot retrain for new work and prove they qualify for SSI or SSDI.
Meeting a Listing in the SSA Listing of Impairments for Facet Syndrome and winning SSI or SSDI
The SSA does have a listing for disorders of the spine which is found under 1.00 Musculoskeletal System, Section 1.04 Disorders of the spine. Under this section is included the following conditions: herniated nucleus pulposus, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis, vertebral fracture, resulting in compromise of a nerve root (including the cauda equina) or the spinal cord.
Through medical evidence you may be able to prove that your facet syndrome is as severe as one of these conditions and qualify for SSI or SSDI. The main thing the SSA will determine is whether your condition is causing “nerve root compression characterized by neuro-anatomic (or nervous system) distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test (sitting and supine).
The SSA also looks for spinal arachnoiditis (pain disorder caused by the inflammation of the arachnoid, one of the membranes around the nerves of the spinal cord) which causes manifested by severe burning or sensation, causing the claimant to have to reposition themselves more than once every two hours.
As mentioned above, you must have adequate medical evidence to support your diagnosis. This can include MRIs, X-rays, CT scans and potentially an EMG report to support their medical claims. Medical information about your gait, your range of motion of your spine, your ability to straighten your legs, evidence of your inability to walk on your heels or toes, your inability to squat and rise, and measurements of your muscle atrophy should also be available.
- SSI and Spinal Stenosis (disabilitybenefitshome.com)
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