Overview Of Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common orthopedic issues experienced by adults in the United States. It often leads to missed work, is a leading cause of disability worldwide, and can result in a variety of secondary conditions. Symptoms of back pain can vary, including:
- Burning or stabbing sensations
- Cramps or spasms
Back pain may be exacerbated with bending, twisting, lifting, standing, or walking. Generally, back pain will gradually improve with home treatment and self-care within a few weeks. However, individuals with back pain should see a doctor if the pain:
- Persists past a few weeks
- Is severe and does not improve with rest
- Spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain extends below the knee
- Causes weakness, numbness, or tingling in one or both legs
- Is accompanied by unexplained weight loss
Importantly, back pain often develops without an identifiable cause however, common conditions linked to back pain include:
- Muscle or ligament strains repeated heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement can strain back muscles and spinal ligaments
- Bulging or ruptured disks soft material inside a disk can bulge or rupture and press on a nerve, causing pain
- Arthritis can lead to a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord
- Osteoporosis vertebrae can develop fractures causing pain
Common treatments for back pain include the following:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Muscle relaxants
Generally, surgery is reserved for very severe cases of back pain.
Types Of Injuries That Can Cause Back Pain
A medical examination will be required to strengthen the claim and increase your chances of approval. Doctors may or may not be able to pinpoint the source of the pain, but its often linked to one of the following:
- Arthritis. Spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of space around the spinal cord, can occur.
- Bulging discs. When the material in the discs in the back rupture or bulge, it can create pressure on the nerves, causing significant pain.
- Osteoporosis. This condition weakens the bone and can lead to fractures.
- Strains. Both ligament and muscle strains can occur from heavy lifting or awkward movements.
You may be experiencing pain from fractures, sprains, strains, herniations, nerve damage, or other injuries.
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Can I Get Va Disability For Back Pain
Yes. Veterans can receive VA disability compensation for back pain with a diagnosed cause, and for associated spinal arthritis related to a back injury.
These conditions must be caused by a documented service-connected injury, illness or condition. Pre-service conditions aggravated by military duty may also qualify for VA benefits.
Submit your active-duty and civilian medical records to help the VA determine if your condition qualifies for a VA disability rating, and how to rate it.
The VA uses a set scale to determine VA ratings. For back pain, your medical evaluator will consider factors like your back and necks range of motion.
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Accurate Measurement Of Limitation Of Range Of Motion
Accurate measurement of the length of stumps, excursion of joints, dimensions, and location of scars with respect to landmarks, should be insisted on.
The use of a goniometer in the measurement of limitation of motion is indispensable in examinations conducted within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Muscle atrophy must also be accurately measured and reported.
Youll also see the term Unfavorable Ankylosis, which is a condition in which the entire cervical spine, the entire thoracolumbar spine, or the entire spine is fixed in flexion or extension, and the ankylosis results in one or more of the following:
- Difficulty walking because of a limited line of vision
- Restricted opening of the mouth and chewing
- Breathing limited to diaphragmatic respiration
- Gastrointestinal symptoms due to pressure of the coastal margin on the abdomen
- Dyspnea or dysphagia
- Alantoaxial or cervical subluxation or dislocation
- Neurologic symptoms due to nerve root stretching
Secondary Service Connection For Back Pain
Veterans can also be service-connected for back conditions that are not directly related to service. A secondary service-connected disability is a disability that resulted from a condition that is already service connected. Here, veterans must provide medical evidence linking their back pain to their already service-connected condition. The nexus between your primary condition and your secondary condition must be clearly established in order to be granted secondary service connection. For example, if a veteran has a service-connected knee condition that causes them to favor one side when walking, they might develop an altered gait. This uneven shift in weight may then contribute to complications and pain in their back. In that way, the veterans back pain is due to their service-connected knee condition, and therefore warrants secondary service connection.
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Secondary Conditions To Lumbar Strain
When you experience an injury to your lower back, the ligaments, muscles, and discs can all be affected. It is referred to as a lumbar strain.
Lumbar strain can lead to several secondary conditions, including herniated discs, sciatica, and chronic back pain if not treated properly. While rest and ice may help to relieve some of the pain associated with lumbar strain, it is important to see a doctor if the pain persists.
Otherwise, you may be at risk for further damage to your back.
We hope this guide has been helpful. Were VA Claims Insiders here to walk you through everything you need to know. Remember, if you have any questions, we encourage you to contact us for support.
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Are Va Benefits For Back Pain Permanent
To establish that a disability is permanent, a veteran will need medical records and opinions stating that the disability will be unchanged or worsen during the remainder of their life. Because these conditions are not typically considered to be permanent in nature, VA may schedule re-examinations every few years to determine the severity of the back or neck condition.
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Tdiu Benefits Based On Lower Back Pain
Veterans who are unable to work due to their service-connected low back pain can apply for total disability based on individual unemployability . TDIU allows for veterans to be paid at the 100 percent disability rate if their service-connected condition prevent them from securing and following substantially gainful employment.
Is Back Pain A Va Disability
Yes, Back Pain is a VA disability.
The VA rates Back Pain under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, General Rating Formula for Diseases and Injuries of the Spine.
VA Ratings for Back Pain range from 10 percent to 100 percent, with breaks at 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent, and 50 percent.
The highest scheduler rating for severe Back Pain is 100%, which means your entire spine is frozen in an unfavorable position.
Your final VA Disability Rating for lower back pain depends upon the Frequency, Severity, and Duration of symptoms to include Limitation of Range of Motion and Painful Motion.
Pro Tip: In accordance with the Painful Motion principle, if you have pain upon flexion or extension of your neck or shoulder, the VA is required to award the minimum compensable rating for the condition, which is 10%.
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Functional Loss Full Definition
Disability of the musculoskeletal system is primarily the inability, due to damage or infection in parts of the system, to perform the normal working movements of the body with normal excursion, strength, speed, coordination and endurance.
It is essential that the examination on which ratings are based adequately portray the anatomical damage, and the functional loss, with respect to all these elements.
The functional loss may be due to absence of part, or all, of the necessary bones, joints and muscles, or associated structures, or to deformity, adhesions, defective innervation, or other pathology, or it may be due to pain, supported by adequate pathology and evidenced by the visible behavior of the claimant undertaking the motion.
Weakness is as important as limitation of motion, and a part which becomes painful on use must be regarded as seriously disabled.
A little used part of the musculoskeletal system may be expected to show evidence of disuse, either through atrophy, the condition of the skin, absence of normal callosity or the like.
What Are Va Benefits For Back Pain
First of all, although it is possible to receive benefits for pain incurred during your time in service without a diagnosis, it is not guaranteed. A current diagnosis is always recommended if possible to obtain. In addition to your current diagnosis, you will need to include a NEXUS letter and DBQ to partner with your medical evidence and in turn, prove your service-connection. Without these outside documents, you are significantly decreasing your chance of winning your VA disability for back problems claim.
In determining benefits, the VA refers to the back as the thoracolumbar spine. This is the term used to reference middle or lower back pain. The VA considers upper back pain in the same category as neck pain. Therefore, anything above middle or lower back pain will be referred to as the cervical spine and falls under a different rating system.
The thoracolumbar spine is composed of two parts of the spine the thoracic and the lumbar . These are the two areas that will be examined in order to determine benefits for any back pain.
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Can I Be Rated For More Than One Va Disability For Back
The legal concept Avoidance of Pyramiding applies to the back just like any other VA disability.
However, you can be rated for more than one disability condition for your back that cause different levels of impairment and are clearly separately rated conditions.
For example, you may have a 50% VA rating for your back due to unfavorable ankylosis of the entire thoracolumbar spine.
Perhaps this condition has also led to Radiculopathy, which occurs when nerve roots become pinched or damaged, the resulting symptoms lead to this painful condition.
How The Veterans Law Group Can Help
If you are a veteran suffering from a back injury or damage to your spine from your service in the military, the Veterans Law Group can help. No matter what the VA disability rating for your back pain might be, we can offer insight into your claim and offer guidance for your next step. If you are unhappy with the VAs decision, an attorney can be your best advocate. Contact us now.
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How Do You Get Service Connected Back Pain
Therefore, in regards to direct service connection for back pain, veterans must show evidence of the following:
Establishing A Service Connection For Back Pain
A veteran must be able to trace their back pain to a specific injury which took place on active duty and establish a connection between their condition and their military service to obtain disability benefits. The link between a veterans disability and an in-service event is known as the nexus.
There are a number of ways to establish an in-service connection for back pain. Tracing back pain to an injury or event that occurred during a persons active duty service is the simplest way to establish a nexus. This can be done by referencing military service records.
For many former servicemembers, injuries during strenuous training exercising are the cause of their chronic back pain. A veteran who can successfully provide an in-service connection for their back pain will automatically receive a 10 percent disability rating based on pain alone. Regardless of the specific event or series of events that caused a veteran to suffer back pain, testimony from a medical expert that the pain resulted from active duty military service is crucial to receiving the most accurate disability rating.
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How To Get A 100% Rating For Back Pain
A 100% rating is given when the entire spine is immovable because of a back injury. However, more commonly, veterans are able to achieve a 100% rating through a combination of back and neck injury ratings and other conditions. Often, nerve issues can arise from back or neck conditions and cause a veteran to lose mobility of their feet and hands.
The VA considers back issues in the lumbar spine separate from the cervical spine. A veteran with issues with both portions of the spine could get a rating for a back condition and a neck condition.
Veterans with a severe neck or back condition may be entitled to total disability based on individual unemployability .
TDIU, which pays at the same rate as a 100% rating, is given to veterans with service-connected conditions that prevent them from keeping substantially gainful employment. A veteran must have at least one service-connected disability rated at least at 60%, or two or more service-connected disabilities with a combined rating of 70% or more, including one single disability rated at 40% or more.
One way to find out if you could be entitled to this benefit is to look at your functional limitations, Ton said. The VA has to consider impairments in standing, sitting, bending, climbing stairs, grasping, and carrying objects, for example, because those are common work tasks.
How To Qualify For Higher Va Ratings For Back Pain
The VA rates back pain based on how much of the spine, or range of motion, is affected.
In addition to range of motion scores and medical findings like ankylosis, the VA has to consider the severity of a veterans functional loss, said Cecilia Ton, a VA-certified disability benefits lawyer. Functional loss refers to any impairment in a veterans functioning due to a service-connected back or neck disability. Making the VA aware of the severity of your functional loss could trigger the VA to assign a higher rating.
Veterans also might not have to show an actual medical finding of ankylosis. If a veterans condition requires a neck or back brace that could be considered the functional equivalent to ankylosis. For example, braces help a veterans stability, but while wearing the brace, their back may be stuck in an upright position, which could be the functional equivalent of ankylosis.
The VA also factors in conditions related to back or neck disabilities. Neurological disabilities that can be tied to a veterans back or neck pain must receive a separate rating. As we discussed earlier, radiculopathy is a common neurological disability stemming from back or neck injuries. The VA also requires that bowel and bladder incontinence and impairment receive a separate rating.
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Back Pain As A Secondary Condition
Veterans may suffer back pain as a secondary condition, according to veteran disability law firm Chisolm, Chisolm and Kirpatrick.
For example, a veteran has a service-connected hip condition that causes them to favor one side when walking, resulting in an altered gait. This uneven shift in weight then contributes to back pain. In this case, the veterans back pain is caused by their service-connected hip condition, and therefore warrants secondary service connection.
You must file a new VA claim for a secondary condition. You cant use the same appeal process youd use to file for an increased rating.
How Do I Obtain Va Benefits For Sciatica
Its very common for veterans to experience back injuries that eventually lead to a nerve condition known as sciatica. Nearly 500,000 veterans receive disability benefits for nerve conditions, and paralysis of the sciatic nerve is the seventh most common disability claim. Additionally, according to a report by the National Institutes of Health , veterans were more likely than nonveterans to have back pain with sciatica . Additionally, the report cited that the prevalence of severe pain was significantly higher in veterans who experienced back pain.
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What Is The Thoracolumbar Spine
The thoracolumbar spine is what most people refer to as their back. It is your middle and lower back.
The thoracolumbar spine is actually composed of two parts of the spine:
The other part of your spine is what we would commonly call your neck. VA chooses to use medical terminology and refers to your neck as your cervical spine. Look for me to discuss how VA rates cervical spine disabilities in future articles.
Diagnostic Imaging Helps But Credibility Is Key
The most common reason that long-term disability claims for back problems get denied is lack of objective evidence of disability. However, you can seek out diagnostic imaging to prove the disorder. This evidence alone isnt enough to win disability benefits, but it is valuable for your case. It can help show your pain is legitimate.
Make sure to tell the doctor about your problems and pain in detail. Then, they will choose an imaging technique that fits and analyze the results for a diagnosis.
The most common imaging techniques are X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans. X-rays can check for instability in the structure of the bones to find issues such as spinal fractures. CT scans are more detailed than x-rays. They can image specific conditions such as spinal stenosis or a bulging disc.
MRI scans are used to assess details of the disc and nerve root. They allow doctors to identify disorders like degenerative disc disease, bulging discs, and spinal stenosis. An important note about MRI results is that there is no accepted link between back pain and what can be seen on an MRI. This is where credibility becomes very important.
One of the best ways to build credibility is to try a variety of treatments for your back pain. You will have a much better chance of getting disability benefits for back problems if you work with professionals who can back up your claims.
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