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By Diana Wade
Disability Advocate 

Can Post Laminectomy Syndrome qualify for Social Security Disability?

Ask the Advocate


December 7, 2019

Diana Wade

Question: I am a 38-year-old male. I have had three laminectomies in the past five years. I was working in the oil fields up until the last two surgeries. I have back pain all the time. Sometimes it's a lot worse than others and sometimes I cannot even get out of bed without help. My doctors are saying there is nothing they can do to help me. Do you think I might qualify for Social Security benefits? My State Disability is about to run out.

Advocate: Post Laminectomy Syndrome (PLS) or sometimes called failed back syndrome is a condition characterized by chronic pain following back surgeries just as you have described.

What is PLS? Laminectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the lamina from the back. The lamina is part of the vertebra that covers the spinal canal. This surgery will enlarge the spinal canal to relieve pressure.  The laminectomy procedure is done as a last resort to treat back problems such as spinal stenosis, a condition in which the spine narrows, and herniated disc when other treatment has not been effective, and the condition is severe. More conservative treatments such as pain relievers and physical therapy are preferred and are usually tried before surgery is considered. 

Common symptoms associated with PLS include diffuse, dull and aching pain involving the back or legs. Abnormal sensibility may include sharp, pricking and stabbing pain in the extremities. The term "post-laminectomy syndrome" is used by some doctors to indicate the same condition as failed back syndrome.

Spinal stenosis creates a lot of pressure on the spinal cord and nerves in the spine. Laminectomy relieves this pressure. It is typically recommended if the condition is unresponsive to medication and therapy after 12 weeks, if standing and walking becomes too difficult due to weak and numb muscles, or if there is loss of bowel or bladder control. Laminectomy does not cure spinal stenosis, so with time the condition may worsen again, causing the need for repeated surgery. 

Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records. 

This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy. 

Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judge decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work. 

An Accredited Disability Representative with more than 20 years experience, Diana Wade believes her clientele can be comfortable knowing that she is recognized by SSA and is a charter member of NADR. To contact Ms. Wade call (661) 821-0494, email or visit


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