What is Scoliosis?

According to the Mayo Clinic, scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine that is abnormal as compared to the regular anatomical curvature of the spine. Scoliosis is usually diagnosed when children are between 10 and 19 years old.

Mild cases are the most common and those require no treatment, but some cases of scoliosis can progress to severe and cause various other medical problems. Severe cases can cause breathing problems as well as chronic back pain.

scoliosis types

Most of anatomical issues caused by an abnormal spinal curvature are related to the fact that the spine will likely rotate as it curves as well.

Signs and symptoms of scoliosis can include:

- Uneven shoulder heights

- Uneven hip heights

- More prominent shoulder blade on one side versus the other

- More prominent rib cage on one side versus the other

- Uneven waist line including soft tissue

The exact cause of scoliosis is unknown in most cases. Sometimes it might run in families, but other times there is no known reason of any kind.

There are times that a certain reason can be identified to have caused the scoliosis. This includes cases that are in children with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy as well as children with birth defects, spinal infection/injuries/abnormalities or chest wall surgeries.

Risk factors for scoliosis include family history, being female and being an adolescent.

Types of Scoliosis

#1. Idiopathic Scoliosis

This is the most common type of scoliosis making up around 80 percent of all cases. Idiopathic means that there is no known reason why a condition occurs.

This can happen in adulthood, but most commonly, it is found in adolescence. The difference is that scoliosis in children starts before the complete skeletal formation. In adults, the curvature of the spine happens after all complete skeletal formation. The results and symptoms are generally the same. For children, the curvature might stabilize after they become an adult, but adults will likely see continued degeneration of their spine.

Another difference between adult and adolescent scoliosis is that children usually have curvature of their thoracic spine which is around the rib cage area while adults tend to see curvature in the lumbar or lower back area.

#2. Congenital Scoliosis

This type of scoliosis is due to a malformation of a part of an embryo's spine. Congenital scoliosis is able to be diagnosed earlier in the child's life because the curvature is likely present at birth.

#3. Neuromuscular Scoliosis

This type of scoliosis is related to other diseases that might include cerebral palsy, spinal cord trauma, muscular dystrophy and spina bifida. These cases are often more severe than other types of scoliosis.

Can Scoliosis Make You Disabled?

Yes, if severe enough, scoliosis can make you disabled. The curvature of the spine must impact a person's productivity by at least 20% to qualify for disability.

Often, the condition will deteriorate as the person ages and this can cause more and more issues over time. If the issues are causing the person to be unable to do their job, they can qualify for disability.

This might mean that they are unable to lift if they work a warehouse job or they are unable to sit and complete tasks as a dental hygienist. Whatever the case may be, they need to keep detailed records on how the scoliosis is impacting their daily work as a way to make a case for long-term disability benefits.

One other thing to note is that even if someone does not qualify for disability related to the degree of curvature of their spine, they might qualify due to the symptoms and related issues that the scoliosis can cause including pain and respiratory issues.

Can You Work with Scoliosis?

Yes, you can work with scoliosis depending on your job and job functions. It also depends on the severity of your scoliosis. If you have mild scoliosis and you work a job that is not physically taxing, you are certainly able to work. But if you have severe scoliosis and work a physically demanding job, you might have to rethink what you do for a living. As noted above, you might also qualify for disability.

One thing to also consider is asking your employer or supervisor about making changes to your workstation or tasks to accommodate your scoliosis. For instance, if you work at a desk, make sure that you have a set up where you can maintain good posture during the day and sit in a comfortable chair.

Related Article: 7 Best Lumbar Supports for Office Chairs

Or if you have a job that requires prolonged standing, consider asking for a standing mat to cushion the floor or a stool that you could sit on intermittently. This might improve your quality of life while working and minimize your pain.

Is Mild Scoliosis a Disability?

Mild scoliosis is unlikely to be a disability. The spinal curvature related to mild scoliosis would likely not present with symptoms severe enough to warrant a claim for disability. However, people with mild scoliosis should keep meticulous records about their curvature, symptoms, impact on daily life, impacting on working life, etc in the event that their curvature worsens in the future. This would make it much easier to make a substantial claim for disability.

Symptoms of mild scoliosis are similar to severe scoliosis. This includes uneven shoulders, hips or rib cage as well as rotation of the rib cage. These are actually not necessarily painful, but the impact of the curvature and rotation can cause pinching of the spinal nerves, spinal cord compression and muscular tightness that could be painful. Again, this can and would impact a person's quality of life for their personal and working lives.

What is the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

SSDI is available to people with physical and mental impairments severe enough to prevent them from engaging in their normal occupations or any other substantial work. The disability must be expected to last for at least 12 months or to end in death.

SSDI is an earned benefit and based on the recipient's work history and social security taxes paid.

SSI is a safety net program that pays benefits to people who are disabled, usually based on the same definition used for SSDI; blind; or 65 and older. They must have very limited income and assets.

SSI is not related to the recipient's work history, but is related to their income and assets.

How to Qualify for SSDI or SSI Benefits for Scoliosis

The easiest way to get the process started to apply for Social Security benefits is online. They do offer in person appointments and/or telephone assistance, but the easiest way is to get started online. Per their website, it will take you 5-10 minutes to get the application started. The website also have a detailed list of information that you should compile before you start the application to expedite the process.

Another option in the application process is to hire an attorney or advocate to do the process with you and assist you. You do not have to do this, but research shows that you might have a higher chance of maximizing the benefit if you have assistance.

How Much Disability Can You Get for Scoliosis?

Disability payments can vary based on many factors. A SSI and SSDI calculator might be helpful to you to estimate what your payment could be after the application is accepted.

Can a Child Get Disability for Scoliosis?

Yes, children would qualify for SSI benefits for scoliosis if they meet certain requirements as set out by the government. The child's parents also have to demonstrate a need for services as well.

The best thing that parents can do is keep detailed medical records and start the application process for the benefits. Again, if you think you need more help than creating the online application, you can meet with a Social Security employee in person or talk to them on the phone.

If your application is denied, you might consider speaking to an attorney or advocate. While that might cost you money in the short term, you could maximize your long term benefits.

In summary, scoliosis is a complicated condition that can lead to various other things for people of all ages. These symptoms include pain, respiratory issues, cardiac complications, etc due to changes in the spinal and rib cage alignment. Because of this, scoliosis sufferers may qualify for disability benefits. If this information pertains to you or a loved one, start the application process soon and seek out help if needed.