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disabilty leave advice- normal EMG but herniated disc compressed nerve

WaterhouseWWaterhouse Posts: 8
edited 06/13/2015 - 5:51 AM in Lower Back Pain
I am wondering if anyone has some advice for me. I am currently on disability leave from work because I have a herniated disc at L5/S1 with S1 nerve root compression. This has caused me severe pain in my buttocks, down my leg into my ankle and big down. One minute it's burning the next its sharp like a knife the next its aching. Of course added with that there is also the back pain. I went for an EMG/nerve conductivity test and it was normal.

Here is my situation - I just got a letter from insurance stating that since my EMG was fine, that I am being sent back to work. Apparently, if an EMG is fine, people with herniated disks and nerve root compression, should not be in pain. The letter states "There is no anatomic basis for a condition of sciatica as there is no clinical evidence from the EMG of S1 radiculopathy." When I spoke to them on the phone and I told them that my pain level is from a 8 - 10 daily they said "that's subjective".

I would like to try to appeal this, since I know that I can have a normal EMG but still have severe radicular symptoms. I just don't know exactly how to word this to the insurance company in a way to get my point across. I sent in my MRI, xrays, bone scan, and even my doctor, and chiropractor both said I should not be working at this time. But I still received this letter.

Any suggestions?? Thanks all!!!


  • interesting and must be frustrating

    did they make an error and test the wrong nerve root distribution? eg tested l5 instead of s1

    perhaps see if you can get it taken again with more thorough l4-s1 distribution just to be sure

    in my EMG leg pain was not my big issue (mainly back pain) but still came back positive. i noticed due to the nerve that was compressed on the mri they tested that path on my legs.
    1994 - herniated disc l4/l5 l5/s1 - sciatica - l4/l5 discectomy
    2011 - l4/l5/ l5/s1 herniated disc/scar tissue - sciatica - discectomy
    now - recurrent disc protrusion l5/s1, lots of back pain, considering fusion/adr

  • Hi thanks for replying. No the EMG is correct (I assume). My issue is that just because the EMG is normal, Disability Insurance feels that I should not be in pain and I should be sent back to work. They feel that the pain caused by my herniated disk and compressed nerve root at L5/S1 can't be causing such severe pain because "the EMG is normal". In a way they are saying I am exaggerating my pain.

    I appreciate your feedback. I hope you feel better :)
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,865
    but unfortunately , there is no one on this forum site who is medically or legally qualified to give you information that you will need.

    You need to talk to both your doctors and a lawyer if it comes down to that.

    I am sorry, but we are not in a position to provide you with solid answers.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Thanks, I respect what you are saying and totally understand.

    I was basically just looking to see if anyone had a better way to say that a herniated disc and compressed nerve root are in fact real pain (even with a normal EMG). I feel that needs to get across to disability insurance. I'm not seeking medical advice, more wording. However, I get where you are coming from.

    In any case, back to work I go.

    Much appreciated.
  • you need. Even though a test shows negative doesnt mean its right...read my posts you'll have a good read but this is what you have to do. Because drs notes are so vague these days ts really just a reference for when you come in on your nest visit. I would get a discogram #1 and # 2 dr has to write a note....has to go against everything that you are expected to do at your job, can not drive on narcotics round the clock, can not bend forward, can not lift more then 10 pounds because pain is subjective you need descriptive information, I dk if this is your state or a 3rd party company handling but you have a right to appeal and do it right away. Call them and ask for the appeals process and document it. And get that descriptive note.
    I had 9 tests including an EMG and I was "fine" I had a discogram which I asked my drs to perform because I want to get off meds. Here I sit 4 weeks later post op with a bone fusion 11 months walking around never returned to worked from a micro surgery because things just kept getting worse I ended up having a posterior annular tear.... FIGHT !!! Anything I can help with I'd be glad to PM me.... you have so many rights ..... I am in HR and have done a lot of outside research as well each co/ state is different but an appeal is something everyone is entitled to.
    This can't be happening
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    As Ron has mentioned, no one on this site is qualified to medically or legally advise you.

    I am speaking from my personal experience on what worked for me.
    Also, to mention, it can take quite a while with testing and ruling out other situations before the source or cause of pain can be found.

    I sought out the the assistance of a Disability attorney. He guided me in my wording, and general guidance in my part of working with doctors for Disability because I was unable to work. My attorney guided me with my timing and approach, also.

    I think you are saying the disability leave from work..is controlled by your place of employment.
    Seeing a Disability attorney, he was working for me, not the company, so he would have my best interest motivating him.

    Receiving Disability does not need to be a life long thing. It often times is temporary, but you are covered until you are able to go back to work. (For me, my disability is permanent.)
    It is at no cost of out of pocket money. I think it is win- win.
    I did everything attorney told me to do. I received my Disability within six months.

    Are your tests being done by a specialist? Are you seeing pain management doctor?
    Are you on any pain medications? Anything that may interfere with your job responsibilities?
    Anything to impair you with heavy machinery ...that kind of thing? Let alone driving, sitting, walking, falling?

    These are just questions to have for a professional in helping you with your situation, if that is what you choose.

    I know it is so difficult to navigate yet another process while suffering in pain and just wanting to rest.

    I wish you the best in however you choose to move forward.
    Hang in there !
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    I'm sorry, but I need to mention, all of my doctors take detailed notes.
    They now do their own notes on computer while I am in the room.
    I forget the computer program, but they speak as computer types it up, and doctors maintain eye contact with me to see if I'm in agreement or have something to add, or disagree with.

    That is my experience with my doctors, although I am aware, not all doctors are created equal and have different ways of documentation.
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

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