Chronic pain refers to a condition in which a patient experiences pain which persists over a long period of time. It can be defined as pain lasting for more than 24 hours, more than 12 weeks, or more than 6 months. This differentiates it from acute pain, which is defined as the sudden onset of pain from a direct cause that usually prompts the victim to take action to prevent the pain from continuing.
Estimates of Americans who suffer from chronic pain fluctuate between 76 million to 100 million individuals. It affects more people than cancer, heart disease, and diabetes combined. Chronic pain is also the most common cause of long-term disability. It can be persistent or intermittent and can range in intensity from mild to excruciating and debilitating. Unfortunately, due to the variety of causes and associations with chronic pain, there is no solution that will work in all cases.
Pain cannot be always be diagnosed or located specifically using external measurements; often the only evidence is the victim’s personal experience and description of the pain. This does not mean, however, that it cannot be debilitating. With time, chronic pain can actually worsen, following a pattern called the “wind-up phenomenon.” In this situation, the pathways between the areas of the body that are in pain and the brain become conditioned to communicate as the nerves become more effective at sending pain signals. Although the original condition or injury which may have initiated the pain response in the brain is not worsening, the experience of pain is getting stronger and more intolerable.
Colorado Chronic Pain Resources:
- What is chronic pain?
- What are the causes and symptoms of chronic pain?
- How do you diagnose chronic pain after an accident?
- What are the treatment options for chronic pain?
- How do you prove chronic pain in Colorado court?
- When should I contact a Denver chronic pain injury lawyer?
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is defined as any pain that persists for longer than six months. There are approximately 100 million sufferers in the United States, which means it affects more people than cancer, diabetes, heart attack and stroke combined. Chronic pain can be categorized a number of ways that vary from person to person. It ranges from bearable to excruciating, periodic to recurrent, and from inconvenient to debilitating. Most instances of chronic pain originate from injuries sustained in accidents and are considered relatively difficult to treat.
Nerve damage: Nerve pain, also known as neuropathic pain, is usually due to damaged or dysfunctional nerves that send false signals to pain centers in the body. As a result, they cause chronic pain. The nature of neuropathic pain is distinguished by doctors by its impact both at the site of the injury and affected areas around the injury. Due to its large impact, it could even remain prevalent in situations when parts of the body are removed due to an injury. Since the brain still gets messages of pain from surrounding nerves, sufferers may still feel impulses from the missing limb. Nerve damage is commonly caused by whiplash, which happens frequently in car accidents.
Spinal injuries: Severe back pain is often an indicator that there are issues with the spine. As an essential part of the body, much of a person’s total health is dependent on the condition of the spine. It is comprised of tendons, muscles, ligaments, spinal discs, joints, and vertebrae. The vertebrae contains a canal where the spinal cord lies, where it serves as a nerve path to the body’s central nervous system. If parts of the spine become damaged in an auto accident, it could lead to the following several spine conditions that cause chronic back pain: spinal arthritis, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis and herniated disks.
Causes and Symptoms of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain usually stems from either a chronic health condition or a traumatic injury. Almost any part of the body can experience pain which may then develop into a chronic condition, including skin, nerves, bones, head, face, muscles, spine, and veins. Common health conditions which may result in a chronic pain condition include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis
- Stomach ulcers
- Multiple sclerosis
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Sinus infections
- Backaches from improper posture or lifting technique, being overweight, degenerative changes with age, or bad mattresses
There is a wide variety of traumatic injuries that can cause chronic pain as well, from fractures, sprains, and burns to surgical incisions or spinal injuries. Injuries such as these often come from playing sports, slipping and falling, incidents at work, or car accidents. In the case of traumatic injuries, the victim will experience acute pain first as they heal from the event but may continue to experience pain for an extended period of time, developing a chronic condition.
Often there are health issues or symptoms that accompany the experience of chronic pain or stem directly from it. These include physical issues such as inability to sleep, joint pain or stiffness, and a weakened immune system. Psychologically, the patient may experience anxiety, stress, depression, anger, and irritability. Negative mental effects can actually worsen the condition because they can reduce the body’s natural ability to produce painkillers.
Diagnosing Chronic Pain After an Accident
A doctor may order an electromyography test to determine whether a patient’s chronic pain originates from the nerve supply or from muscle dysfunction. It is used to measure the electrical activity from the brain and/or spinal cord to a nerve root that controls the muscles. During an EMG, a doctor will insert small wires into a muscle to dictate changes in electrical voltage that occur through movement within the body. It lasts a duration of approximately 20-40 minutes depending on the severity of an injury.
An MRI scan uses magnetic fields and radio waves to display a picture of tissues and organs within the body. A physician may order an MRI scan to predict if a patient will develop chronic pain within the first two weeks of an auto collision injury.
Treatment options for chronic pain are usually case specific because different types of pain may respond better to different therapies. In consultation with a physician, chronic pain sufferers usually implement a variety of techniques concurrently to manage their pain, which may become a lifelong condition. Common treatment options fall into a few major categories
Acupuncture is a broadly accepted medical treatment for pain among the medical community and is considered relatively popular with patients. Needles, heat, and pressure are applied to specific areas of a patient’s skin to redirect the body’s own self-healing mechanism to imbalances or blockages in those areas. According to the National Institute of Health, this method of treatment works especially well for patients with chronic pain in their back, neck, knees and head.
Electrical stimulation is also a popular procedure used to treat patients with severe chronic pain. A doctor implants a permanent stimulator with tiny coated wires under the skin or in the spinal canal so they connect with nerves throughout the body. Physicians use either a sedative or an anesthetic when implanting the device. Upon completion, patients and doctors agree to a comfortable pulse strength level and patients are given a controller to use when at home. The device creates a tingling sensation for pain relief.
When a doctor administers nerve blocks, they inject a group of damaged or dysfunctional nerves – called a plexus or ganglion – with medication to numb them on specific areas of the body. There are several different varieties of nerve blocks each used for different purposes. But they are generally administered to patients who wish to avoid undergoing a surgical procedure.
On the other hand, surgery for chronic pain is not common. Although it may provide some relief, it’s considered a last resort for sufferers due to the risk factors associated with surgical procedures. Damage in a patient’s ability to discern certain sensations, like temperature changes and light touch have been reported by patients. Decompression is a type of surgery underwent to ease nerve pain. A doctor creates an incision in the skin with the intent to move blood vessels or any other culprits rubbing on nerves to cause the chronic pain.
Self-management programs teach patients coping techniques including relaxation, strength building, positive thinking and the use of appropriate medication. These Programs aim to encourage people with chronic pain through mutual support and advice from other sufferers.
Opioids are routinely prescribed for those who have chronic pain from injuries inflicted due to a car accident. The long-term treatment of opioids in people with chronic pain has been a controversial topic in the medical community for years. In the midst of an opioid crisis, many question if the risks of addiction outweigh the benefits. But they have been proven to be effective in patients who experience great distress and have sustained catastrophic injuries.
Proving Chronic Pain in Court
Chronic pain conditions can cause immense emotional and physical pain that may last a victim’s lifetime. Treatment for these conditions can be long, frustrating, and extremely expensive. Moreover, insurance may not cover alternative therapies like acupuncture, massage, or counseling, even if they are recommended by a physician. It is, therefore, important to include any chronic pain conditions in a personal injury lawsuit, in addition to other claims.
Recovering compensation for chronic pain in a personal injury lawsuit can be more difficult than proving another party’s negligence and liability for an acute injury. Although chronic pain is a well-documented phenomenon within the medical community, its proof largely depends on the victim’s expression of the pain. A defendant’s lawyer will likely downplay its severity and try to convince the jury that you are exaggerating your condition in order to receive a bigger award. In this case, technology such as fMRIs, images of the brain, or expert witnesses who practice in the medical field can help support your case.
Contact a Denver Chronic Pain Injury Attorney
At Jeremy Rosenthal’s law office, our Denver personal injury attorneys understand how chronic pain taints your everyday life. It’s a syndrome that requires lots of maintenance for relief, which forces victims to deal with financial hardship along with their ongoing physical pain. We encourage you to initiate the process of obtaining the compensation you rightfully deserve for your injuries and costs spent to cope by contacting us at (303) 825-2223 today.