Neck pain and problems can be caused by many different issues: muscle strain, joints that become worn, nerve compression, injury, and disease. Many of the neck problems seen on disability applications are due to degenerative disk disease, whiplash, pinched nerves, herniated discs, infections such as meningitis, inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, and certain types of cancer.
The symptoms of neck pain and problems can include numbness, sharp, shooting pain, difficulty swallowing, dizziness, headache, pains in the face and/or shoulders, and arm tingling and numbness.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) or SSI benefits for neck pain or problems, an individual must meet the requirements of one of Social Security's official disability listings or prove that he or she doesn't have the capacity to return to work because of neck pain or doctor's restrictions.
The Social Security disability listing for disorders of the spine specifically addresses many of the causes of neck pain and problems. If you meet the requirements of this listing because of severe problems in your cervical spine, Social Security won't even have to consider how your neck problems limit your activities; you would be approved for benefits right away.
In order to meet the requirements of this disability listing for your neck problems, you must show that the nerve root or spinal cord are affected and that you have either:
spinal nerve root compression pain, limited movement of your spine, and muscle weakness with loss of feeling or reflexes in those muscles, or
The medical evidence required to meet this listing includes an examination of your spine and documentation of the range of motion of your neck. Laboratory findings and medical imaging may also be needed to show that you have a specific impairment. (As pain is based on the perceptions of the individual and is not easily measured, there must be medical evidence to show the possible source of the pain.) A history of treatments received, how long that treatment was received, and your body’s response to the treatments is also helpful.
While the causes and symptoms of neck pain and problems can vary greatly, there may be other disability listings that may apply to some individuals who suffer from neck pain and problems, such as:
If you are not found to be disabled under one of the above listings, you still might be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you are found unable to return to work. Social Security will assess your limitations using a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form and how they limit your ability to do work activities.
If you have neck pain and problems, your ability to use your arms may be affected, especially if you have decreased feeling in your arms.neck problems cause severe pain, the pain may prevent you from being able to concentrate on tasks.
Social Security will review your medical records to find limitations like these to create your RFC. The agency will then look at your RFC, your job experience, your education, and your age to see if there are any jobs left that you can do. For information on how Social Security makes this determination, see our section on how Social Security decides if you can work.