Back to front page

Reading Time



Apr 22, 2024

Is Scoliosis a Disability? Here’s What You Need to Know

Scoliosis can impact your life in a myriad of ways, from back, shoulder and neck pain, to difficulty with movement and even trouble breathing. It can affect children and adults alike, and it can be a lifelong struggle. But is scoliosis a disability? What does the term really mean, and what should scoliosis patients be aware of? We’ll go over some of the most important things to know if you or a loved one has received a scoliosis diagnosis.

Written By

Momentum Health

What exactly is a disability?

The definition of a disability varies depending on the institution or organization you’re working with, as different programs, states, and countries establish their own guidelines and requirements. However, most programs and agencies refer to the disability definition established in the Social Security Code of Regulations of the Social Security Administration: 

“The law defines disability as the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

This means that, in the eyes of the Social Security Administration (SSA), being disabled means that your illness has prevented you from working for at least 12 months and is affecting your quality of life in a significant way.

Is your scoliosis a disability?

The answer to this question is ‘it depends.’ Some scoliosis patients only have mild symptoms and impairment, and they can go about their lives without any difficulty, while for some, the deformity can be advanced and prevent them from working, exercising, or engaging in other daily tasks. 

Scoliosis isn’t one of the official standalone diagnoses listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, which features all the conditions that qualify for Social Security disability. That’s because it’s not automatically considered a disability, and qualification ultimately depends on the severity of each case. However, patients suffering from scoliosis can still qualify for SSA disability benefits under the Blue Book, but under different conditions, such as disorders of the spine or musculoskeletal disorders.

When is scoliosis considered a disability?

Scoliosis can present with very mild symptoms, or it can be severe enough that the patient is physically impaired and can’t work or engage in daily activities. But how bad does scoliosis need to be to be considered a disability? 

If the patient presents with severe back pain that interferes with their ability to move, or medical imaging shows narrowing of the spinal canal, nerve compression that causes difficulty walking, nerve pain, or loss of reflexes, then scoliosis is considered severe enough to be disabling, according to the SSA’s Blue Book guidelines.

How do you show that scoliosis is disabling?

If your scoliosis is severe and you think you qualify for Social Services disability, you’ll need to present medical evidence that this affliction is affecting your quality of life and your ability to work. 

You and your doctor will have to certify and prove that your scoliosis is severe enough to impact your life and ability to work, and depending on the case and specific requirements, you might need to present some or all of the following: 

  • Imaging that shows spinal curvature (X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans)

  • Physical examination notes from your doctor listing symptoms like pain, weakness, reduced range of motion, nerve damage

  • A comprehensive record of all your medications, as well as their side effects, if any

  • The opinion of a scoliosis expert (surgeon, neurologist)

  • Reports of any interventions or operations you might have had for spinal deformity 

  • Proof of use of an assistive device, such as a back brace, a cane, walker, or wheelchair

  • Physical therapy records 

  • Other records the organization you’re addressing requires

What if you don’t qualify for SSA disability?

In some cases, the SSA might not deem your scoliosis severe enough that it qualifies for disability benefits, but if you don’t agree with their evaluation, there is another route you can try. You could still qualify for SSA benefits if you can prove that your symptoms interfere with your ability to work, through a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. 

This assessment is done to show exactly which tasks you are capable of, and which you are not, while suffering from scoliosis. Usually, if the RFC assessment shows that your scoliosis is causing a 20% decrease in productivity levels, thus affecting your ability to do your job effectively, the SSD will approve your disability request. 

For instance, if your assessment shows that scoliosis is impacting your ability to bend over or lift heavy objects without pain or discomfort, it’s safe to say that this will impact your job if you work in a warehouse or grocery store where that’s a daily task. 

What kind of scoliosis disability benefits are there?

The SSA runs two disability benefits programs that aim to support individuals struggling with disabling afflictions:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - this program offers financial assistance to disabled workers diagnosed with scoliosis or other spinal deformities. To qualify, you need to prove that you’ve been paying Social Security during your employment, and after you are approved, you will become eligible for Medicare in two years. 

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) - this program provides monthly financial assistance to disabled individuals, children, or elders with limited income, and offers access to medical coverage through Medicaid. 

When should you apply for scoliosis disability benefits?

If your scoliosis is impacting your ability to work, then it might be the right time to apply for disability benefits. However, if you’re not sure it will be worth the effort, this might help. 

Apply for scoliosis disability if:

  • You have a scoliosis diagnosis, but you still are unable to perform your daily tasks at work even with appropriate treatments

  • Your scoliosis is so severe that it has caused other health issues

Reconsider applying for scoliosis disability just yet, if:

  • Your scoliosis symptoms are mild or moderate and they seem to be responding to treatment

  • Your scoliosis is not interfering with your ability to work 

  • You earn more than $1,550 per month or more - this is currently the income threshold to qualify for SSDI and SSI benefits

Frequently Asked Questions

What degree of scoliosis qualifies for disability?

Patients diagnosed with scoliosis might be able to qualify for disability benefits, but this depends on the severity of their condition and its impact on daily activities and work responsibilities. Scoliosis is usually considered for disability benefits when it significantly limits a person's mobility, causes chronic pain, or leads to complications affecting vital functions, such as breathing or organ function. Consequently, the specific degree of curvature alone is not always the primary determining factor. Individuals seeking disability due to scoliosis typically undergo specialized medical evaluation to assess the extent of their impairment and its impact on their ability to work and perform essential tasks.

What category of disability is scoliosis?

More often than not, scoliosis is regarded as a musculoskeletal disability, as it affects the normal curvature of the spine. This can lead to various complications, including chronic pain, limited mobility, and in more severe cases, impairments in organ function or breathing. But the impact of scoliosis and other spinal issues can also extend to other aspects of a patient’s life, like their mental health and emotional wellbeing and their potential to work and engage in routine daily tasks. In such severe cases, scoliosis can become disabling. 

What benefits can I get if I have scoliosis?

Benefits for scoliosis patients can vary depending on the severity of their condition and impact on daily life and the ability to work. Potential benefits include disability benefits, which can provide financial assistance to patients who are significantly impaired by scoliosis, unable to work and earn a living. Sometimes, patients can also qualify for medical benefits to help cover the costs of treatments. This can include physical therapy, bracing, or surgeries that are necessary to manage the condition. Scoliosis patients should always consult with a medical professional and determine the specific benefits they may be eligible for, based on their individual circumstances and symptoms.

Keep track of your scoliosis with Momentum Spine

The key to effective scoliosis management is early detection and very close monitoring. That is why we have created Momentum Spine.

Our mobile app allows you and a healthcare professional to closely monitor the state of your spine and detect changes rapidly. Learn more on our website or try the app yourself! Available now on the App store and the Google Play Store.

Frequently Asked Questions


More articles you may find interesting

Scoliosis back pain: What to do and how to manage it

Scoliosis can present itself in many ways, and the signs and symptoms can vary. However, one of the ...

Understanding Scoliosis: An Overview for Patients and Caregivers

Scoliosis, a condition that affects millions worldwide, goes beyond the physical curvature of the sp...

Is Scoliosis Genetic? Understanding the Sources of Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a complex deformity and is often considered to be caused by multiple factors. To unders...