Chronic Pain After Trauma
A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that more people suffer from chronic pain than from high blood pressure and diabetes. Chronic pain may have a simple definition – pain that persists for more than three months – but it is complicated to live with.Chronic pain is different from acute pain. Acute pain occurs when, for example, someone is working out at the gym and pulls a muscle. They might deal with swelling and a high level of pain for a short period of time – but the muscle heals, and the pain goes away. Chronic pain can be caused by medical conditions such as arthritis or autoimmune diseases like fibromyalgia. For other people, chronic pain may start out as acute pain from an injury or trauma – but it never fully goes away. As personal injury attorneys, we see far too often how people may start to recover from an injury like whiplash – but then they stop getting better and are left with some level of permanent discomfort.
Doctors face challenges in treating chronic pain. Many pain medications are not meant for long-term use and can come with bad side effects. Chronic pain also causes a cascade of other negative consequences. People with chronic pain, understandably, can develop depression and irritability. Doctors at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine refer to a “terrible triad” of suffering, sleeplessness, and sadness with chronic pain. Depression and irritability can cause insomnia, which in turn can increase someone’s pain level – creating a vicious cycle.A recent JAMA study found that 51 percent of adults experience chronic pain and that the risk of chronic pain jumps 30 percent for people over 50 years old. If you are someone suffering chronic pain, it’s important to think of your condition as an illness that needs management, not just something to put a band-aid on. Many people don’t get access to the medical care they need and turn to over-the-counter pain pills, topical patches, and creams, and just ignore their suffering. In reality, the most effective treatment for chronic pain may require a multidisciplinary approach, from physical therapy to mental health supports such as antidepressants and counseling.
Pain management is a field of medicine that looks at how to manage chronically painful conditions most effectively. This can include finding the most effective pain medicines at the right doses or receiving different types of injections and nerve blocks. Occupational therapy may be necessary to help someone cope with activities of daily living. The right kind of exercise and lifestyle interventions may help some people – but people in pain need medical care and resources to find the right combination of supports to help them.
The good news is that more attention is being paid by the medical profession to chronic pain. In one case, the Multidisciplinary Approach to the Study of Chronic Pelvic Pain (MAPP) Research Network used imaging of patients’ brains to find that some responded better to medication while others responded better to physical therapy. Where and how the patients felt pain determined which treatment they needed. This is an example of how neuroscience can help better target the treatment of chronic pain in individuals, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. Clinicians are calling for insurance companies to put more resources into what’s called integrative health care. Tools like meditation and therapy can help people deal with how chronic pain impacts their life, even when the pain won’t go away completely.
As personal injury attorneys, one of the biggest risks we see victims of accidents take is rushing to settle their case while they are still hurt. Someone might get rear-ended in a car wreck, go to physical therapy for a few months, and then stop seeking medical treatment even though they still suffer pain. Their lingering pain might seem mild, so they ignore it and just want their case to be over – but that mild, persistent pain often sticks around, becomes chronic, and over time takes away someone’s quality of life.If you are a victim of an accident in California, you can include chronic pain in your claim for damages when negotiating a settlement or taking your case to trial. And you can fight for the cost of future medical treatment to manage your chronic pain. But vehicle insurance and commercial insurance companies will deny, deny, and deny chronic pain cases, arguing that the accident victim should have healed already. It will require patience, diligence, and tenacity on the part of your personal injury attorney to make sure you are compensated fairly for chronic pain.
Don’t ignore chronic pain if you’re suffering from it. Talk to your doctor about taking a wider view of how to manage your pain and what supports might help you. And if you have a personal injury case, speak up if you’re still hurting! You can consult with Mercado Kramer’s personal injury attorneys at no charge about if you’re entitled to seek compensation for your chronic pain.