Can Physical Therapy Treat Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

August 3 , 2018

Even after a relatively minor injury, the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome symptoms may continue to linger in the affected parts of your body. With doctors shying away from opioids and painkillers, you may face constant, unchecked moderate-to-severe pain which can keep you from work. In many cases, physical therapy may be the key to helping you manage CRPS. If you’ve been diagnosed with CRPS or suffer from consistent pain after an injury, you may be able to file with workers’ compensation in North Carolina to help cover your treatment costs – including physical therapy. For help with your workers’ comp claim, and for help challenging denials or uncooperative employers, contact the Charlotte CRPS workers’ comp lawyers at The Ramsay Law Firm today.

What Is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

After an injury, your body may continue to feel serious pain and discomfort in the area of the injury. You may feel heat or coolness, sensitivity to touch, and other symptoms similar to bruising, swelling, and tissue damage. However, there may be no clear injury remaining. This makes it hard to understand what’s wrong with you – and hard to prove to an employer that you are still too injured to go back to work. However, this may be evidence of a real medical condition called CRPS.

CRPS was formerly known as “regional sympathetic dystrophy” (RSD), but is now known as “complex regional pain syndrome.” This condition is called “complex” because it involves multiple body systems – not just your bones, your muscles, or your nerves, but sometimes all of them. It is called “regional” because it’s usually localized to one area of your body, near the site of a prior injury. The pain part of the name is clear and can often involve pain that is far more serious than one would expect from the original injury.

There are two main types of CRPS, known as Type 1 and Type 2. Type 2 CRPS deals with pain and sensitivity linked to a specific nerve injury. Type 1 CRPS is not related to a distinct nerve injury and may have multiple causes.

Some of the symptoms of CRPS are expected with any sort of pain. Sensitivity to touch, swelling, discoloration, pain, and changes in skin temperature at the site are common. However, some side effects are somewhat odd, considering the overall lack of apparent injury. These include increased sweating at the site of injury and changes to the hair or nails at the site of injury. “Dystonia” also occurs in about a quarter of cases. This is when the limb falls into an awkward position because of frequent or consistent muscle contractions/spasms.

Treating CRPS With Physical Therapy

Some conditions and disorders are difficult to treat. With conditions involving ongoing pain and discomfort, painkillers are a common treatment choice. However, with the state of opioid addiction in the United States, many doctors may be hesitant to prescribe heavy-duty painkillers for a chronic pain condition like CRPS. As with many ongoing pain issues, physical therapy often becomes one of the best treatment options for CRPS. Many times, your physician may not understand or be able to diagnose CRPS, and the physical therapist will actually be the one to catch the diagnosis. In many cases, workers’ compensation benefits will pay for physical therapy.

One of the issues with CRPS is muscle contractions. This can cause physical pain and injury because of muscle spasms. Physical therapists are trained to help you move your joints and muscles, helping them to stay loose. This can help fight contractions and help alleviate pain in cramped muscles. Stretches, exercises, and passive movement techniques can all be beneficial to your CRPS treatment.

Sometimes, issues with pain can come down to how your brain interprets or sends signals. Your brain is like a computer that regulates the movements in your body, so sometimes staging those motions out very slowly can help your brain recalibrate itself to avoid some unnecessary pain signals. This is called “Graded Motor Imagery,” and often helps with CRPS. A physical therapist may recommend incremental movements to allow your body and brain to correctly process the pain issues you face.

One interesting therapy is something used to treat phantom limb syndrome. Phantom limb syndrome is a disorder in some ways like CRPS in that the brain understands there to be pain where there shouldn’t be any (in that case, in a missing limb). This “mirror box therapy” has the patient move both sides of the body in sync, but hide the injured limb on the other side of a mirror. You see both limbs functioning normally and correctly (one side and its reflection), which can help reset your brain signals to avoid sending the pain signals to the affected side.

In many cases, harsh treatments involving electrical stimulation, ice, or other extremes can actually be harmful rather than helpful for CRPS.

No matter which direction your physician takes to treat the ongoing medical issues associated with CRPS, you should not be responsible for the ongoing care or the extended time you must take away from work for treatments.

Like all North Carolina work-related injuries, workers’ compensation coverage should provide the care and benefits you need to get your life back.

If you have been denied ongoing treatment for CRPS from your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance coverage, contact our skilled Charlotte workers’ comp attorneys today to get the legal help you need to pursue the best outcome for your unique case.

Workers’ Comp Lawyers For CRPS Injury Claims In North Carolina

If you or a loved one is experiencing continued, ongoing pain after a minor injury, you may have CRPS. Getting a diagnosis for CRPS may entitle you to continue to receive workers’ comp benefits, even if your original injury has healed. Talk to a Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyer today to see if you can qualify to have your physical therapy and other CRPS treatments covered by your workers’ comp medical benefits. For a free consultation on your case, contact The Ramsay Law Firm, P.A., today at (704) 376-1616.

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