Obviously, pain is a major component of many work injuries and occupational diseases. Pain can significantly affect an injured or ill worker’s ability to engage in work tasks. Pain can be a legitimate part of the reason for a permanent partial or complete disability.
Credibility of pain
In Maryland Workers’ Compensation claims, too often because pain is subjective and not measurable on any scan or lab test, injured workers’ valid complaints of severe pain are not given adequate consideration. When an injured worker reports that serious pain from work injury or illness is unbearable or intrusive, his or her credibility may be outrageously or unnecessarily called into question by an employer or insurance company.
No one questions that catastrophic work injury or illness like a crushed limb or asbestos-caused mesothelioma cancer causes severe pain. However, for a range of less severe, but equally legitimate, work-related harm, serious pain can result and limit the worker. Pain is real to the patient even though it cannot be physically measured. Reports of pain are not just automatically “in the worker’s head.” Unless there is a valid reason to discount a report of pain, the worker should be given the benefit of the doubt and his or her credibility respected.
Full range of pain treatments
In an interesting new article in an insurance-industry publication, the author consults two pain experts about cutting-edge pain-treatment methods in injured workers, recognizing the concern of opioid-addiction potential from some treatment and the need for new approaches.
Some of the points made:
- Pain is not just physical, but is also a “negative sensory and emotional experience.” The psychological component should also be addressed.
- Chronic, on-going pain deserves a unique approach since it causes “fear and stress” in addition to the pain sensation.
- Pain should be immediately part of the treatment plan in and of itself, not looked at as an afterthought down the road.
- Reports of pain should be treated with respect.
- There are behavioral approaches to help with pain short of clinical psychological intervention. Classes, video instruction and online resources can help teach management techniques.
- In addition to medication, other treatment should be considered like occupational and physical therapy, relaxation, acupuncture, massage, exercise and chiropractic intervention.
- Newer, active behavioral approaches include ways to “self-soothe” like “mindfulness training, acceptance and commitment therapy, and chronic pain self-management.”
We support a range of methods for pain relief and management for our injured clients. In that regard, we also advocate for appropriate coverage of the cost of the full range of appropriate pain treatments for our workers’ compensation clients.