Workers across Ohio experience a wide variety of on-the-job injuries every day—last year the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) approved benefits for more than 86,000 injuries. From slips to vehicle accidents to falls from height, workplace accidents are common and can cause severe, traumatic injuries. When a worker is injured on the job, he or she is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages.
For some workers, complications from work-related injuries do not surface until long after the initial accident. One such complication is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD). CRPS can be severe, debilitating and expensive to treat for those who experience it, and the BWC and self-insured employers often deny claims related to this painful syndrome.
Workers Who Develop Complex Regional Pain Syndrome After a Workplace Accident Face Debilitating Pain
CRPS is chronic pain condition that occurs after an injury, typically affecting one limb—an arm, leg, hand, or foot. The pain associated with the condition is generally more severe than what would be expected from the original injury. Symptoms of CRPS can include:
- Continuous burning or throbbing pain
- Changes in skin color
- Changes in skin texture
- Muscle spasms
- Decreased movement
- Increased sensitivity to touch
Over time, the symptoms of CRPS can intensify, and the affected body part can experience more severe damage. According to the Mayo Clinic, some research indicates that early treatment can improve the symptoms and halt the advancement of the pain.
Treatment Options for Injured Workers With Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Treatment options for CRPS vary, with every treatment plan tailored to the unique circumstances and needs of the injured worker. Common treatments for CRPS include:
- Medication. Over-the-counter pain relievers, steroids, antidepressants, anticonvulsives, and opioids have all been used to address the symptoms of CRPS.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy can help injured workers learn gentle exercises that can help them retain range of motion and strength.
- Biofeedback. This non-invasive therapy uses many guided relaxation and focus exercises to help those suffering from chronic pain gain more control over bodily functions including skin temperature, blood flow, and muscle tension. Biofeedback techniques can help to relieve pain and stiffness associated with CRPS.
- Spinal cord stimulation. This treatment entails surgically implanting a small device beneath the skin. When the spinal cord stimulator is turned on, it sends mild electric pulses to the nerve fibers in the affected area of the spine. These electric pulses help to mask pain signals before they reach the brain.
- Pain pump implant. Through surgery, a small pump is implanted in the body to provide doses of pain-relieving medication directly to the spinal nerves causing the pain.
Obtaining Medical Care for CRPS Through the Ohio BWC
Although the first cases of the CRPS were documented over 100 years ago, the cause is unknown, and the disease itself is not clearly understood. There is no single test to concretely diagnose the condition, so doctors must rely on bone scans, sympathetic nervous system tests, x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies, and medical history to diagnose CRPS.
While experts agree on the validity of the condition, and clear evidence of the physiological issues is associated with CRPS, the uncertainty surrounding the syndrome may be a hurdle to obtaining treatment approval from the Ohio BWC.
At Monast Law Office, our knowledgeable legal team has helped many injured workers present compelling medical evidence to secure medical care and compensation to address the painful symptoms of CRPS. Call our Upper Arlington office today to learn more about what we do, or request a free copy of our book, The Worker’s Guide to Injury Compensation in Ohio, to learn about the state’s workers’ compensation system.