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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which is sometimes called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), is a rare and poorly-understood medical condition characterized by chronic pain that persists for at least six months. While anyone can suffer from CRPS, it is generally seen in patients who have a history of traumatic injuries, including bone fractures, crush injuries, and soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains.
When a worker develops CRPS, it can be very difficult to obtain workers’ compensation due to the lack of research and understanding about this uncommon condition. Many doctors are unfamiliar with the causes and symptoms of CRPS, which is frequently misdiagnosed as a result. Employers and insurance companies sometimes claim that the victim is “faking it” or exaggerating the symptoms, which may include joint stiffness, reduced coordination, skin discoloration, swelling, hair loss, prickling or burning sensations, and intense pain.
If you or your spouse is suffering from work-related CRPS, representation by a skilled and experienced workers’ compensation attorney is vital. The work injury lawyers of the Ramsay Law Firm have successfully handled numerous workers’ comp claims involving CRPS, and understand what it takes to prove that you are disabled by this serious yet misunderstood condition.
We represent workers throughout the Charlotte region and are ready to help with any stage of the workers’ comp process, whether you are filing a claim for the first time, or need to appeal a claim that has been denied.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) Causes and Risk Factors
Unfortunately, little is known about the exact causes of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. However, medical researchers have developed some ideas about who develops CRPS and why. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), “CRPS is a chronic (lasting greater than six months) pain condition that most often affects one limb (arm, leg, hand, or foot) usually after an injury.
CRPS is believed to be caused by damage to, or malfunction of, the peripheral and central nervous systems,” meaning the nerves, brain, and spinal cord. One of the diagnostic standards of CRPS is pain “out of proportion” of the original injury.
NINDS points out that, while some patients recover after experiencing mild symptoms, other patients “may not recover and may have long-term disability.” NINDS also reports that more than 90% of CRPS patients have a “history of trauma or injury,” strongly suggesting that previous injuries or surgeries increase the risk of developing CRPS.
That means people who have suffered work injuries in the past are more likely to be diagnosed with CRPS in the future, even if the original injury appeared to have healed correctly. Most of the people affected are young adults or middle-aged, with women having a higher risk than men.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits for CRPS Disability
As NINDS states, CRPS can be a disabling condition in the most severe cases. The pain, stiffness, muscle tremors, and other symptoms associated with CRPS can make it difficult or completely impossible to perform a wide array of work-related tasks and functions, such as standing, crouching, crawling, lifting, typing, driving, operating heavy machinery, and other basic job duties.
CRPS symptoms are chronic, which means they are long-term and recurring. A person who is suffering from chronic CRPS symptoms will likely be unable to work for a period of months or even years, depending on the severity of the symptoms and the nature of the individual’s job duties.
The person may also have high medical costs, as treatments for CRPS can include prescription medications, injections, physical therapy, psychological therapy, surgeries, stimulation with electrodes, such as a spinal cord stimulator or dorsal column stimulator, and use of intrathecal drug pumps, which deliver powerful pain medication straight into the cerebrospinal fluid (fluid around the spinal cord).
If a worker in North Carolina develops CRPS as a result of a job-related injury, the worker may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits (workers’ comp, WC), which can provide:
- Partial replacement for the worker’s pre-injury wages. A disabled worker can receive up to two-thirds of his or her pre-injury weekly wages. For example, a worker who was earning $725 per week could be compensated with up to approximately $483.29 per week. If the worker improves and returns to work, benefits will be reduced or terminated depending on how much he or she is earning. However, employers must obtain court permission before modifying, suspending, or terminating benefits that are currently being paid out.
- Coverage for reasonable care costs. In addition to the disability benefits described above, workers’ compensation can also pay for the worker’s treatment-related expenses, such as medication, hospitalization, therapy, ambulance transportation, and surgery.
Charlotte, NC Job Injury Lawyers Can Help with Your Worker’s Comp Claim
Trying to get workers’ compensation for a rare and misunderstood condition can be an uphill battle with insurance companies, especially while you are dealing with severe pain. Allow the experienced CRPS injury claim lawyers of the Ramsay Law Firm to handle the legal work for you, so that you can focus on getting the care you need.