Disability Benefits Based on Bone Spurs

When bone spurs affect your ability to use your arms or walk effectively, you can get Social Security disability benefits.

By , Contributing Author
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Bone spurs, a bony growth caused by pressure, rubbing, or stress to a bone, are common in the spine, shoulders, hands, hips, knees, and feet. Many people who have bone spurs are unaware of them unless they are discovered accidentally when being x-rayed for something else. However, if the bone spur is rubbing on other bones, ligaments, tendons, or nerves, it can cause pain and lead to limitations in movement.

Disabling Symptoms of Bone Spurs

The symptoms of bone spurs depend on where in the body the bone spur has grown. Below are the most commonly affected areas in the body and the symptoms that bone spurs in those areas often cause:

  • Fingers. Bone spurs (called osteophytes) make the joints in your fingers look like they have bumps on them. Pain and limitation in the use of your fingers may occur.
  • Hip. Bone spurs can cause movement of your hip to be painful and can limit the amount you can move your hip, possibly limiting your ability to walk properly and causing pain that radiates to your knee from your hip.
  • Knees. Bone spurs can get in the way of the bones and tendons in the knee, preventing it from moving smoothly. Movement can become painful when the knee is straightened or bent.
  • Shoulder. Bone spurs can rub against your rotator cuff, which controls the movement in your shoulder. The rubbing can cause swelling and tears in your rotator, which will cause pain and limitations in the use of your shoulder.
  • Spine. Bone spurs can lead to a narrowing of the canal in the spine. The spinal cord or nerve roots in the spine can be pinched by the bone spurs, which can cause weakness or numbness in your arms or legs.

A possible complication can occur if the bone spur breaks away from bone on which it grew. The bone spur can float near your joint and prevent it from working properly. When the bone spur is in the joint, the joint can become locked and not be able to move. Movement will resume when the bone spur moves out of the joint.

Can You Get Disability for Bone Spurs?

In order to qualify to receive Social Security Disability benefits, you must prove that you meet or equal the requirements of a "listing" that is set out in the Social Security blue book or that you are unable to return to any work.

Meeting a Disability Listing

Bone spurs do not have a specific disability listing in the Social Security blue book. However, the limitations that are associated with bone spurs may allow you to meet the requirements of another blue book listing. Below are the three most likely disability listings to be met by those with bone spurs.

Section 1.02- Dysfunction of a joint. To meet this listing, you must show that you have a bone spur on a joint that causes instability and chronic pain and stiffness. Destruction of the joint must be visible on medical imaging. Additionally, you must show that the bone spur doesn't allow you to walk properly or use of your arms effectively.

Section 1.04- Disorders of the spine. To meet or equal this listing, you must show that bone spurs in your spine have affected your spinal cord or the nerves in your spine. Additionally, you must show one of the following two symptoms:

  • The nerve root has been compressed by a bone spur and it limits the movement of your spine or causes weakness, loss of reflexes, or numbness in other areas of your body

  • The spinal canal has been narrowed by the bone spurs causing pain, weakness, and an inability to walk effectively.

For more information, see our section on disability for disorders of the spine.

Section 14.09- Inflammatory arthritis. Bone spurs can be caused by arthritis. If arthritis is the cause of the bone spurs and the bone spurs have limited your ability to walk or use your arms, you may meet the requirements of this listing. For more information, see our article on inflammatory arthritis.

To meet this listing, you must show that you have inflammatory arthritis that has led to bone spurs of a weight-bearing joint that affects your ability to walk or affects an upper extremity that affects your ability to do things with your arms and hands.

Not Being Able to Return to Any Work

If you do not meet or equal a disability listing, you might still qualify for benefits if you can show you are unable to return to any work. Social Security assesses your limitations using a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form. For those with bone spurs, physical limitations due to pain, limitation in movement of the joints, and numbness in the limbs will greatly affect their ability to perform activities at work. Specifically, bone spurs in the hip, knee, and spine may limit an individual's ability to stand or walk for any period of time or to move or lift items in the work place. Bone spurs in the shoulders or arms may limit an individual's ability to do even work while seated if the use of their arms and fingers is limited. Pain from bone spurs anywhere in the body can affect an individual's ability to perform a job properly and effectively due to a loss of concentration.

Social Security will gather all of the limitations mentioned in your medical record into your RFC. The agency will then use the RFC to determine if there are any jobs that fit within the limitations of your RFC. Learn more about How Social Security Decides if You Are Disabled.

Learn More or Get Help

If you are trying to get disability benefits from Social Security, take the time to learn about the Eligibility Requirements for Social Security and the filing process.

If you've already been denied, or need help with your claim, talk to a disability attorney for a free case evaluation.

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