Workers’ Compensation Could Ease the Burden of Chronic Pain Conditions

While the acute pain that accompanies injuries eventually fades away, some trauma can have longer lasting consequences and develop into chronic pain conditions. One common type of chronic pain condition is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also called reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). For people diagnosed with either CRPS or RSD, workers' compensation may be able to help ease the burden that comes with trying to manage chronic suffering, while at the same time attempting to live a normal life.

Chronic Pain Explained

Recent global research found that over 1.5 billion people have chronic pain conditions in the world today. The Institute of Medicine of The National Academies estimates that 100 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain, which is more than the combined number of Americans with diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Around 37 percent of the U.S. population lives with chronic pain conditions.

In some cases, people suffer chronic pain without prior injury, but typically previous bodily damage or pre-existing conditions are the main causes of ongoing pain conditions. Sprains, broken bones, back trauma, traumatic brain injuries, as well as arthritis, infections and cancer, can all lead to pain that persists for months or sometimes years. According to the National Institute of Health Statistics, the most frequent complaints about chronic pain include low back pain, severe headaches or migraines, neck pain, and facial aches or pain.

CRPS or RSD Condition

The chronic pain condition of CRPS, also known as RSD, causes intense and continuous pain that worsens over time and is typically out of proportion to the pain associated with the initial injury. There may also be indications of swelling, discoloration or temperature changes on various parts of the body, but usually the whole of one or both arms, legs, hands or feet are involved. Further symptoms are extreme skin sensitivity, increased sweating, and burning pain throughout the body, especially within injured areas.

This pain may come from prior injuries or occur because of trauma related to repeated work duties, but doctors are still unsure about the causes of CRPS or RSD. The chronic pain could be triggered by the immune response, which produces the swelling, redness and warmth, but the sympathetic nervous system in some people could be working to maintain the pain response. There is no cure for CRPS or RSD, but the symptoms can be treated through prescription drugs like antidepressants, nerve block procedures and physical therapy.

Role of Workers' Compensation

People diagnosed with chronic pain conditions like CRPS or RSD must document their medical tests and histories when applying for workers' compensation. It is typical for employers and workers' compensation carriers to initially deny claims dealing with chronic pain, but as long as the chronic condition began after a work-related injury, or was pre-existing but worsened after performing work duties, a person with chronic pain conditions like CRPS or RSD may be able to receive workers' compensation benefits.

Disability awards that fall under workers' compensation include permanent total disability, which are weekly payments for life to people permanently disabled and unable to work, and permanent partial disability benefits that pay based on a percentage of a person's legal disability after considering permanent injury and work restrictions. Wage loss or differential compensation helps people with long-term disabilities remain at their pre-injury earning capacities, and medical benefits help pay for treatment after work-related injuries.

Easing the Burden

Workers who have experienced debilitating injuries and now have chronic pain conditions deserve to live normal lives and should reach out for the best help they can find to make that happen. When acute pain subsides after a workplace injury, but chronic pain sets in, life can become difficult and frustrating, especially when the causes are unknown and there are no cures readily available.

Applying for assistance in the form of workers' compensation, however, can help to ease the burden for people with chronic pain conditions like CRPS and RSD. Whether the ongoing pain is moderate, allowing a person to work with restrictions, or is crippling and prevents a person from working at all, there are options for benefits to help with medical expenses and lost wages under workers' compensation.

If you currently have a chronic pain condition that resulted from, or was exacerbated by, a work-related injury, contact a local workers' compensation attorney. Lawyers with experience handling workers' compensation cases can assist you in navigating through the system, and help you receive the benefits you need.