Common Causes and Treatment Options for Managing Chronic Pain After a North Carolina Workplace Injury

March 22 , 2024

According to Harvard Business Review, up to 40% of American workers experience chronic pain, which is pain that lasts longer than three months. This number is higher than the number of people with diabetes, cancer, and heart disease combined.

Workplace Injury

At the Ramsay Law Firm, P.A., our Charlotte workers’ compensation attorneys know chronic pain is associated with increased absence, decline in job performance, concentration problems, and physical limits in North Carolina workplaces.

We also know chronic pain is often an invisible condition because employees usually go to great lengths to conceal it. Here, we discuss workplace injuries that lead to chronic pain, potential treatment options, and support resources so you can, hopefully, achieve more pain-free days.

What are the Most Common Causes of Chronic Pain from Workplace Injuries in North Carolina?

Chronic pain following workplace injuries can arise from various sources, often depending on the nature and severity of the injury.

Some common causes of chronic pain after workplace injuries:

  • Musculoskeletal Injuries

Strains, sprains, and fractures of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones can result from overexertion, repetitive motion, lifting heavy objects, or slips and falls. Chronic pain may develop due to ongoing inflammation, tissue damage, or improper healing of the affected structures.

  • Back Injuries

Back injuries, such as herniated discs, spinal fractures, or strains of the muscles and ligaments in the back, are prevalent in occupations that involve heavy lifting, bending, or prolonged sitting or standing. The initial injury can cause nerve compression, disc degeneration, or muscle imbalances, which can lead to chronic back pain.

  • Neck Injuries

Neck injuries, including cervical strains and herniated discs, are often associated with workplace accidents such as falls, collisions, or repetitive tasks that involve awkward neck positions. Chronic neck pain may stem from soft tissue damage, nerve irritation, or cervical spine instability following the injury.

  • Joint Injuries

Knee, shoulder, elbow, or wrist injuries resulting from fractures, dislocations, ligament tears, or cartilage damage can lead to persistent pain, stiffness, and functional limitations.

  • Nerve Damage

Traumatic injuries or repetitive stress in the workplace can cause nerve damage, resulting in chronic neuropathic pain. Conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, or sciatica can cause tingling, numbness, burning sensations, or shooting pain along the affected nerve pathways.

  • Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs)

RSIs, also known as cumulative trauma disorders, develop over time due to repetitive motions, awkward postures, or prolonged exertion in the workplace. Conditions such as tendinitis, bursitis, or tenosynovitis can cause chronic pain and inflammation in the affected muscles, tendons, or joints.

What are the Most Common Treatment Options for Chronic Pain?

The treatment of chronic pain typically involves a multidisciplinary approach tailored to the injured worker’s specific needs and the underlying cause of the pain.

That may include, but is not limited to:


  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce inflammation and alleviate mild to moderate pain.
  • Prescription medications: Stronger pain medications such as opioids may be prescribed for severe pain that does not respond to other treatments. However, opioids are generally used with caution due to the risk of addiction and other side effects.
  • Antidepressants and anticonvulsants: Certain medications used to treat depression or epilepsy can also help relieve chronic pain, particularly neuropathic pain.
  • Muscle relaxants: These medications can help reduce muscle spasms and associated pain in conditions such as fibromyalgia or musculoskeletal injuries.

Physical Therapy

  • Exercise: Therapeutic exercises and stretching techniques can help improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion, reducing pain and preventing further injury.
  • Manual therapy: Hands-on techniques such as massage, mobilization, or manipulation by a physical therapist can help reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and alleviate pain.
  • Modalities: Heat therapy, cold therapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and other modalities may relieve pain and promote healing.

Interventional Procedures

  • Nerve blocks: Injection of local anesthetics or steroids around nerves or joints can help block pain signals and reduce inflammation.
  • Epidural steroid injections: These injections deliver corticosteroids into the epidural space around the spinal cord to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain in conditions such as spinal stenosis or herniated discs.
  • Radiofrequency ablation: This minimally invasive procedure uses heat generated by radiofrequency energy to disrupt nerve signals and relieve chronic pain, particularly in conditions such as arthritis or facet joint syndrome.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture therapy involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. It promotes pain relief and overall well-being.
  • Chiropractic care: Chiropractic adjustments and manipulations can help realign the spine, improve joint function, and alleviate pain associated with musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Massage therapy: Therapeutic massage techniques can help reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and promote relaxation, reducing pain and stress levels.

Surgical Interventions

When conservative treatments fail to provide adequate relief, surgical options such as decompression surgery, joint replacement, or nerve procedures may be considered for certain conditions causing chronic pain, such as spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, or nerve compression syndromes.

It is important for individuals experiencing chronic pain to work closely with healthcare professionals to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses their unique needs, goals, and preferences. If the injuries that led to your chronic pain occurred at work, workers’ compensation benefits may be available to help cover the costs of your treatment and to supplement your lost wages.

Have You Been Injured at Work in North Carolina?

Our dedicated Mecklenburg County workers’ compensation law firm provides free consultations to all employees who have suffered a workplace injury in North Carolina by calling 704-376-1616 or contacting us online.

A Voice For The Injured. Here Every Step of The Way.

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