Is Your Neck Pain Disabling? Ask Yourself These Simple Questions

Severe neck pain is one of the most debilitating and frustrating conditions a person can experience. It’s not uncommon for neck pain sufferers to struggle to keep up with the physical and mental demands of their jobs, which may force them to file for long-term disability (LDA) benefits.

However, before you file for disability insurance benefits, it’s always a good idea to go over your medical conditions and abilities as well as other factors that might affect your claim — preferably with help from an experienced disability lawyer. In this article, we’ll bring up a series of questions that can help you make the right choices.

Most of Us Experience Neck Pain During Our Lifetimes

Many people experience neck pain at one time or another. Neck pain can have many causes, including:

  • Degenerative disc disease: Wear and tear in your spine can create bone spurs and damage cartilage.
  • Herniated discs: A ruptured disc can press on your spine’s nerves, causing pain in your neck and limbs.
  • Inflammatory arthritis: Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis can lead to swelling, stiffness, and pain in your neck.
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders: Dysfunction in your temporomandibular joint, which is a joint in your jaw, can cause severe neck and head pain.
  • Cancer: Head and neck tumors sometimes cause neck pain.
  • Soft tissue trauma: Injuries such as whiplash and muscle strains can lead to neck pain.

Studies suggest that 60–70% of all adults will experience neck pain at some point in their lives. And at any given time, between 10–20% of the adult population is dealing with some type of neck pain.

While some people can manage their pain and maintain an active lifestyle, others aren’t so lucky. So, if you’re suffering from neck pain that prevents you from working, know that you’re not alone. Neck pain and back pain are two of the most common conditions that cause people to file for both short-term and long-term disability (LTD) benefits.

Before You Apply for Neck-Related LTD, Ask Yourself These 4 Questions

If you’re like most of our clients, you’ve agonized over the decision to file for disability insurance benefits. It’s hard to accept that you can no longer do the things you love. However, a successful disability claim can give you space and time to focus on your health and recovery.

Before you apply for disability insurance benefits, ask yourself the following questions. Your answers may help you refine and improve your neck-related LTD claim.

  • Can Doctors Explain My Neck Pain?

Most people’s neck pain has multiple contributing factors. Mental health issues, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, and orthopedic problems can cause or worsen neck pain.

While you don’t need to identify all the causes of your neck pain beyond any doubt, you may face issues in an LTD claim if your doctors can’t point to what is causing your neck pain. Insurance companies are often skeptical of disability claims where diagnostic tests and doctor’s reports don’t match up with the reported symptoms.

To avoid this potential issue, it’s in your best interest to seek treatment with your doctor and visit additional specialists if needed. Diagnostic studies such as MRIs, CT scans, and EMGs can help clarify your diagnosis and explain your symptoms.

  • How Does My Neck Pain Limit My Ability to Work?

As part of your application for disability benefits, you’ll need to articulate why you can no longer work. While “neck pain” is an acceptable answer on your LTD application, your claim will become stronger if you can explain how your neck pain impacts your ability to work.

For example, it will help if your claim can speak to specifics such as:

    • Do you need to take breaks to alleviate your pain? If so, how frequently?
    • Does your pain radiate into your shoulders, arms, or hands?
    • Have you noticed that your arms and hands feel weak or tire easily?
    • Does your pain increase if you hold your head in certain positions or make specific movements?
    • Are you experiencing anxiety and depression due to your chronic pain?
    • Does your pain get worse throughout the day?
  • What Is My Prognosis?

Your prognosis and recovery time can vary dramatically depending on your specific diagnosis, the severity of your neck problem, and other factors. For example, some people only need four to six months to recover from an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), which is a surgery that removes a damaged disc and stabilizes the spine with hardware. However, if your bones don’t fully heal and mesh with the hardware, your recovery time could be much longer.

Long-term disability plans typically have strict waiting periods and requirements regarding how long your condition is expected to last. If your neck pain or degenerative disc disease will only disable you for a brief time, you may not be eligible for LTD benefits.

Before you apply for disability insurance benefits, you should obtain a copy of your insurance plan’s summary plan description (SPD) and carefully review its terms and conditions. That way, you’ll understand the exact requirements of your LTD policy so you can address them in your application for benefits.

  • Do I Experience Negative Side Effects From My Medications?

In addition to your physical and emotional limitations, the long-term disability insurer must also consider unwanted side effects from your treatment. This includes adverse side effects from your medications as well as complications from surgery and other procedures. However, you will need medical records that support these aspects of your claim.

If you’re struggling with significant fatigue, dizzy spells, or other disabling side effects due to your pain medications, talk to your doctor about these issues.

RELATED ARTICLE: Degenerative Disc Disease and Disability Insurance: A Claimant’s Guide

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The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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