CRPS/RSD a Crippling Condition Seen in PA Workers’ Comp

Injured workers in PA are like every other person in society. They are susceptible to conditions that affect everyone else. One of those conditions is a scary disorder called Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Having had trauma, through a work injury, the injured worker may be even more at risk.

We have previously discussed CRPS/RSD on our blog. One of the most frightening aspects of CRPS/RSD is how much the experts don’t know. For example, it is not known how or why a person develops the condition. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, CRPS/RSD is caused by an injury or trauma, but not necessarily a severe one. The condition has been known to develop from sprains, strains, cuts, burns or bruises, in addition to fractures or surgical procedures. Most commonly, CRPS/RSD occurs in a patient between 25 and 55, and women are three times more likely to develop the ailment than men, says the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.

Another area that makes CRPS/RSD difficult is the problems in reaching a proper diagnosis. The hallmark symptom is extreme pain, which appears out of proportion to the injury suffered. There may also be changes to the skin of the injured worker, including discoloring, swelling, dryness, tightness, redness, rashes, changes to the hair or nails and/or an increase or decrease in sweating. Many of these symptoms are common to other conditions as well. Worse, according to a recent presentation by Dr. Pradeep Chopra, Assistant Professor at Brown Medical School and Director of the Pain Management Center in Rhode Island, diagnostic tests, such as x-rays, MRI, bone scan and EMG are “not helpful for diagnosing RSD,” though they may be useful to rule out other causes and diagnoses. Therefore, CRPS/RSD is essentially a “clinical diagnosis,” best made by a physician’s personal observations of the injured worker.

There is no single “best” way to treat CRPS/RSD. The case must be examined on a patient-by-patient basis. Treating with a physician experienced with CRPS/RSD is critical, says Dr. Chopra. Options include one or more medications, drawn from several different types, injections, spinal cord stimulators and therapy.

Since CRPS/RSD is difficult to diagnose, and the causes are so vague, this condition is often met with litigation in the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system. Much like a patient should consider using a physician with experience with the condition, when the patient is an injured worker in PA, he or she should consider using an attorney certified as a specialist in the practice of workers’ compensation law (as both of the attorneys at Brilliant & Neiman LLC are).