Some workplace injuries manifest symptoms right away. For example, if you cut your hand on a piece of machinery, you expect to see blood and feel immediate pain. In that case, receiving treatment under workers compensation is typically cut and dry. However, when workplace injuries result in delayed pain, you should still see a workers’ comp doctor for medical treatment.
What Are Some Common Injuries With Delayed Pain?
Workplace injuries occur every day, and some jobs are more dangerous than others. For example, construction workers’ face hazardous conditions on a regular basis, and while job sites should adhere to strict safety regulations, accidents still happen.
When an accident results in apparent injuries, such as lacerations or other penetrating injuries, you know to see a doctor right away, and there is no question about how those injuries occurred.
When a work-related injury presents with delayed symptoms, you may have questions about how to relate those to your accident.
First, consider some common work-related injuries with delayed pain:
- Spinal cord injury (SCI). Neck and back injuries commonly have delayed symptoms. However, unless you know the signs of spinal cord injury, you may misinterpret your symptoms. It can take hours or days after an accident to feel signs of nerve damage, such as tingling or numbness in the extremities, even if you have some immediate pain. If left untreated, you could face paralysis or other irreparable damage.
- Head injury. Delayed pain from a head injury is usually indicative of something very serious. If you notice consistent headaches, sensory disturbances, mood or personality changes, or nausea after an accident, it could directly relate to a severe head injury. You should see a workers’ comp doctor right away for examination and close monitoring of your condition.
- Abdominal injury. If you take a blow to the abdomen or fall from a high surface, you may have internal injuries that can take days to show signs of damage. If you notice swelling and bruising or start feeling pain in the abdominal area, this could indicate internal bleeding or organ damage.
When seeking treatment with delayed pain, injured employees can still see a workers’ comp physician. There is no requirement that your injuries present with immediate pain to qualify for workers’ compensation insurance.
However, an insurer may question the source of your injury if you present delayed symptoms. Therefore, seeing a workers’ comp doctor who has experience with injuries that cause delayed symptoms is beneficial for your health and your claim. If you live in New York, make sure that your doctor is authorized to treat injured workers. by the NYS Workers Compensation Board.
What Delayed Injury Symptoms Should You Look for After a Workplace Accident?
Sometimes latent symptoms present so slowly that you may overlook them as part of your accident. You may even have delayed symptoms with seemingly no correlation to your incident. If you recently suffered a serious accident in the workplace and have significant injuries, some delayed symptoms you should look for include:
- Mental or emotional distress. Your emotional condition is part of your overall health. If you have a serious accident and experience mental anguish or emotional distress afterward, you should seek medical attention. Doctors that handle workplace accidents often see psychological conditions that result from severe accidents and injuries.
- Persistent headaches. Weeks may pass before you notice having significantly more headaches than you did before your accident. This is a potential sign of many different injuries, but the most common are traumatic brain injuries, including concussions.
- Feeling anxious or depressed. Injuries that cause temporary or permanent disability can have life-changing effects on your mental state as well. If you feel yourself struggling to enjoy life as you did before, speak to a workers comp doctor about treatment for mental health.
- Pain in your shoulders or neck. Delayed pain in the neck and shoulders is often an indicator of soft tissue damage. This can include whiplash, a common injury from collisions.
- Swelling and bruising. Broken bones, internal bleeding, and several other serious injuries can present delayed symptoms of swelling and bruising. If left untreated for too long, you could suffer irreparable damage.
- Lower back pain. Compression injuries to the back can slowly develop over time or result from a single accident. Lower back pain can signify many conditions, including lumbar strain, fractured vertebrae, and herniated disc.
- Tingling in the extremities. When nerve damage occurs, the most common sign is tingling, typically accompanied by numbness. It may subside on its own, but you should see a doctor right away in case it is symptomatic of a more severe injury.
- Limitations to movement. Stiffness and increasing pain from movement can occur much later in the aftermath of an accident and make working difficult or impossible.
Seeing a workers comp doctor for delayed pain is a common occurrence in treatment. Physical pain is evident and difficult to ignore. On the other hand, you may overlook mental and emotional symptoms. Be mindful of mood swings or other changes in your emotional state.
What Are Repetitive Motion Injuries?
Repetitive motion injuries, also known as repetitive strain injuries (RSI), are another common source of workplace injuries that cause delayed pain. The source of an RSI is the repetitive movement of a part of the body, eventually resulting in pain from overuse.
Symptoms of RSI present slowly and worsen over time. Examples include:
- Decreasing strength in the overused muscle
- Increasing pain or tenderness in the area
- Losing sensation in the area
- Feelings of throbbing, tingling or pulsating in the area, most commonly seen in the hand or arm
While the hands and arms are the most commonly affected parts of the body, RSI can occur on any muscle or jointly used consistently in the same motion as you work.
Risk Factors for RSI
Stress is a risk factor for any form of RSI, regardless of the type of job. Some other elements in the workplace that can exacerbate RSI are:
- Energy draining work, such as carrying heavy loads or other forceful activities
- Working with vibrating equipment
- Sitting or standing in the same position for too long
- Working in a cold environment
- Overusing a specific muscle or group of muscles regularly
- Applying consistent direct pressure to a particular area of the body
- Using non-ergonomic furniture in an office setting
Repetitive motion injuries are sometimes difficult to relate back to the workplace. However, a workers comp doctor can diagnose and treat your injury, making a correlation between your work activities and the delayed pain to develop an effective work injury treatment plan.
What Role Does the Workers’ Comp Doctor Play in Your Claim?
If you suffer a severe injury, the role of a workers’ comp doctor is to provide the initial treatment and monitor your condition to determine if or when you can return to work or resume your regular work activities. In addition, that continued treatment and monitoring of symptoms are how they can keep an eye out for delayed pain as well. The specifics of your doctor’s role in injury treatment include:
Providing an official diagnosis.
To file a workers’ compensation claim, you need an official diagnosis from a doctor that includes prescribed medications and therapy.
Make the necessary referrals.
You need a doctor that will refer you to specialists when you require additional treatments or surgery. It is important to have a physician that will recognize that need and sign off on it.
Determine your restrictions.
To receive extended time off work or an adjustment to your workload, you need a doctor to sign off on what you can and cannot do based on your diagnosis.
Officially determine if you sustained a temporary or permanent disability.
Part of the reason you need a doctor to monitor your condition is to determine when you reach your final state of improvement. If you remain in a permanent state of disability, the insurance company will use your doctor’s conclusions to determine your eligibility for continued disability benefits.
Workers’ compensation insurance exists to assist injured workers without reference to fault. This means you do not need to prove fault to receive workers’ compensation benefits, but you do need to prove that you sustained an injury. The role of a workers’ comp doctor is to provide treatment and evidence of injury.
Choosing Your Own Workers’ Comp Doctor
State law mandates who chooses your doctor for work injury treatment. Some states allow you to choose your own doctor. You may even designate your primary care physician in your initial onboarding paperwork. Other states may require you to select a physician within your employer’s insurance network or see a doctor chosen by your employer for an independent medical examination.
Unfortunately, people required to see a company doctor often receive biased independent medical examinations or medical care. A doctor who answers to the company or the company’s insurer will often put the employer’s best interest above the injured worker, translating into ignoring critical delayed pain.
If you find yourself receiving unsatisfactory treatment for your injuries or the company treating physician tries to force you to return to work before you are physically capable, it may be time to look for a new physician. You can change doctors at least once during work-related injury treatment in most states. In addition, you can search online for doctors that specifically treat work-related injuries. Use a platform that vets doctors in your area according to the following factors:
- Their office location in proximity to your residence or place of work
- Their experience level and proven skills
- Their availability and willingness to take on new patients quickly
- Their specialties in the medical field
- Whether they accept the fee schedule for your state workers’ compensation insurance
- Whether they are familiar with your injury and treat it often
You can specifically search for a workers’ comp doctor that understands the process of a workers’ comp claim. You need a physician that will advocate for you if you receive pushback from the insurance company or your employer.
Who Is Most Affected by Workplace Accident Injuries?
Certain industries are more susceptible to dangerous conditions and more hazardous for workers. For example, the workers most affected by workplace accidents are those in the following sectors:
- Construction workers use dangerous equipment and operate heavy machinery. They also work commonly risk deadly falls from dangerous heights.
- Agricultural workers deal with heavy equipment that can cause severe injury or death.
- Retail and food industry workers often work in fast-paced environments requiring long hours and potentially hazardous floor conditions. As a result, this is one of the top industries for slip and fall accidents.
- Mining workers work under some of the most potentially deadly conditions, but they also commonly suffer from repetitive motion injuries caused by the strenuous nature of their work.
- Manufacturing industry workers work around large machinery with the potential for severe injuries. Even with proper safety protocol, they could face debilitating injuries in seconds with just one wrong move.
- Leisure and hospitality industry workers operate under so many varying conditions that the potential for injury is diverse. Slip and falls and RSIs are common for hospitality workers, especially those not in client-facing environments.
- Utility industry workers spend an extensive amount of time working in varying environments with different conditions. Dealing with electrical and plumbing work comes with significant risk.
Even office workers who spend their days at desks are vulnerable to workplace injury. They often suffer from delayed pain caused by repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Whatever the source of your workplace injury, you need a reliable doctor that regularly provides work injury treatment.
How Can a Workers’ Comp Doctor in New York Help You With Delayed Pain?
A workers’ comp doctor specializes in treating injuries from workplace accidents and will advocate for you when you receive pushback about benefits from your employer or their insurance company.
They offer a professional approach to work injury treatment and can provide relief for injuries with delayed pain, and help prevent future injuries. Additionally, they can help link these delayed symptoms to your work injury to ensure you continue to receive coverage under workers’ compensation insurance.
Work accidents are often stressful, and delayed symptoms can leave you with questions about where you can get the necessary treatment.