Are you living with pain after an accident in the workplace? It can seem that in an instant, your life changes. Pain can creep into every aspect of your life, whether your situation is acute or you live with chronic discomfort. Starting a workers’ comp pain management plan can help you alleviate pain after a workplace injury.
Unfortunately, workplace injuries are not uncommon. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2020, almost three of every 100 workers in private industries experienced a work-related injury or illness. Nearly two of every 100 workers lost time at work as a result.
Workplace injuries are expensive, costing nearly $164 billion in 2020. This amount includes:
- Medical expenses
- Administrative costs
- Productivity and wage losses
If that number seems abstract, consider that the average cost per employee was $1,100 — the total amount of goods or services each worker must produce to offset the cost of work injuries.
According to the CDC, workplace falls happen most frequently due to:
- Cluttered, slippery or unstable walking and working surfaces
- Openings in walls and holes in floors
- Incorrectly positioned ladders
- Edges left unprotected
- Lack of or incorrect fall protection
Workers in some industries are more prone to falls. However, most industries see their share of workplace injuries.
They can happen, for example, when someone slips on a set of icy stairs, trips in an unlit hallway or falls from a ladder.
While many people associate workplace injuries with dramatic incidents such as falls, repetitive motions cause many workers to experience musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). In fact, the CDC reports that MSDs are more severe than the average workplace illness or injury.
Musculoskeletal injuries generally happen over time. The CDC defines MSDs as injuries to the muscles, tendons, cartilage, joints and spinal discs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines work-related MSDs as the result of repetitive motion, overexertion or bodily reaction such as twisting and bending. They are not the result of sudden mishaps such as slips and falls.
MSDs fall under the definition of work-related musculoskeletal disorders when they meet the following criteria:
- Work performance and environment significantly contribute to the condition, and
- Work conditions make the MSDs persist longer or worsen.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released evidence of work-related conditions that can cause MSDs. These conditions include:
- Overhead work
- Routine heavy lifting
- Repetitive forceful tasks
- Exposure to whole-body vibration
- Working with the neck constantly bent forward
Contact With Equipment or Objects
Workers can get hurt when they run into an object, or something falls on them. They can also get caught in a piece of equipment.
These kinds of occupational injuries can take place in a variety of industries. In 2020, for every 10,000 workers:
- 11.3 had an object or piece of equipment strike them
- Three had injuries after an object or piece of equipment compressed or trapped them
- 4.6 collided with an object or piece of equipment
All of these incidents led to missed work time.
Examples of these injuries include a loose shelf falling on a worker, wires entangling a worker’s arm or leg, or a person or piece of equipment pushing a worker into a wall.
Occupations in which workers drive for a living can expose them to the risk of crashes. In 2020, 4.2 of every 10,000 workers sustained injuries from transportation-related accidents that led to missed workdays.
One of the most prominent examples of a transportation accident is a truck driver getting into a crash. Other examples include forklifts hitting employees on a job site or workers falling from a vehicle.
Other Types of Workplace Injuries
Employees can experience other hazards on the job that lead to injury, including:
- Workplace violence
- Unintentional injury from another person
- Animal-related injuries
- Explosions and fires
- Exposures to hazardous environments, chemicals or other substances
A 2020 report from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that more than 20% of adults live with chronic pain. High-impact chronic pain, which limits work and life activities, is 7.4%.
Common types of chronic pain are:
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Joint pain
- Knee pain
- Muscle pain
- Stomach pain
Chronic pain can cause serious quality-of-life issues. Side effects can include depression, anxiety, worsening of existing health problems, substance abuse and an increased risk of suicide.
Therefore, treating chronic pain is crucial. Seeking help for pain management can be the difference between a high and low quality of life and can even be a life-and-death matter.
Workplace Injuries and Chronic Pain
Sometimes chronic pain happens from a job injury. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that more than 35% of workers report work-related health problems. Back pain is the leading reported issue.
Chronic pain sufferers can take lifestyle measures to manage chronic pain, such as:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Getting enough sleep
- Managing stress
- Joining a support group
- Making self-care a priority
Living a healthy lifestyle supports a treatment plan. It can improve your well-being and increase your treatment’s success.
Making lifestyle changes is a worthwhile investment in one’s health. However, it is often hard to relieve pain without help from a pain management specialist.
Seeking a Pain Management Doctor
Many types of healthcare workers help patients treat a work injury. They can include emergency physicians, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, physical medicine and sports medicine practitioners, burn specialists and many others that provide professional medical advice. Pain management is an additional category.
Pain can be acute or chronic. It can be minor, barely interfering with daily activities, or severe and cause significant life disruptions. Pain can have many sources. Injury, surgery, nerve damage and metabolic damage can lead to pain. Patients also suffer from complications from diseases, like cancer pain.
Because it is so complex and comes in many forms, pain management has evolved into its own field.
A pain doctor can diagnose, evaluate and treat pain. Pain management doctors have studied pain in-depth and understand its physiology. They have training in a variety of methods to treat it, including interventional pain management, to help patients start on a path toward a pain-free life.
Making an Appointment
If you suffer from pain after an accident in the workplace, the first step is to make an appointment with a pain management specialist. At the initial meeting, you give the doctor background information. You will probably complete a questionnaire about your past and current health conditions.
The physician will perform an exam and ask you about your injury to help make an accurate diagnosis. Some topics you can discuss are:
- How did you get hurt?
- When did the accident take place?
- Was equipment or machinery involved?
- Did a workplace hazard cause the accident?
- What are your current symptoms?
- What pain relief methods have you tried, and are they working?
Feel free to ask your own questions, too. You may want to know the doctor’s background and experience in pain management. You can ask about the most common and successful treatment methods for cases similar to yours.
Try to build a trusting relationship with the doctor before you begin treatment. It will help you build confidence in your treatment plan and create a positive experience.
Beginning a Treatment Program
Pain management specialists work with you to design a treatment plan. They consider the type of workplace injury you have, your general health, the level of pain you experience and your preferences to provide definitive treatment advice.
No two plans look the same. Likewise, treatment lengths can vary. They depend on many factors, such as the severity of your injury, pain level and your case’s complexity.
It is your responsibility to follow the treatment plan while under the doctor’s care. Missing appointments, skipping medication doses, or refusing tests and diagnostic procedures won’t help you get better.
On the other hand, following your treatment plan can help you relieve pain and get back to working and doing the activities you enjoy.
Pain Management Methods
Your workers’ comp pain doctors have various options for treating pain. Your pain specialist keeps current on the latest techniques. The physician will create your plan based on where your pain originates, how intense it is and what systems it affects.
Medications are tools that pain specialists can use to help patients manage pain effectively. The medication and dosage depend on the patient’s pain level and type of injury. These factors can change throughout treatment. An acute injury may require pain medicine for a short period, while chronic pain may need a long-term medication plan.
Some pain medication must be delivered by the doctor through epidural steroid injections or trigger point injections.
Sometimes a patient needs surgery to alleviate the pain source. The doctor tries less invasive methods to treat pain first in many cases. Your doctor will discuss options with you to make an informed decision about your pain management plan.
Research demonstrates that physical therapy is an effective tool for long-term pain management. Physical therapy helps restore blood flow, nerve flow, and movement throughout the body. It enables the body’s systems to work together efficiently and without interruption.
Physical therapy can lead to positive side effects such as:
- Better sleep
- Weight control
- Healthy blood pressure levels
- Improved mood
- Better endurance and strength
- Higher bone density
Physical therapy is also a tool for helping patients recover after surgery or an acute injury. Movement therapy helps the patient build up strength and restore a range of motion in the affected area.
A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator, also called a TENS unit, can help relieve chronic pain. It sends electrical pulses through the skin, causing the body to release endorphins. Endorphins are one of the body’s painkillers.
Electrical stimulation controls hyperalgesia, which is high pain sensitivity. Research shows that TENS is safe and useful for many patients. Doctors may use it for pain in the neck, back, joints and muscles. They may also use it for neuropathic pain.
There are also spinal cord stimulation (SCS) devices that deliver electricity directly to the spinal cord to relieve pain.
While patients may think of pain as a purely physical sensation, it has strong ties to other body systems. Pain plays a role in a patient’s emotions, behavior and well-being. It can cause depression, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness, especially when it is a chronic condition.
Psychological treatment is another powerful tool for pain relief. It can alter how your brain deals with pain sensations.
The most common therapies are:
- Relaxation training: Learning how to enter a state of deep relaxation
- Talk therapy: Support from a psychologist or psychiatrist
- Pain coping skills: Adapting life to the pain
- Stress management: Learning how to approach difficult situations
Water-based therapy benefits patients suffering from pain in several ways. Water’s buoyancy takes the pressure off of joints. Water immersion up to the neck reduces the weight pushing down on the body by 90%.
Water supports, assists and slows movement, decreasing pain and relieving muscle spasms. Water pressure also reduces swelling by moving fluids from a swollen area back through the body.
The healing power of touch can have a substantial effect on pain. People have used massage therapy for thousands of years to relieve discomfort and support good health. Massaging soft tissue and muscles stimulates nerves and increases blood flow. Specialists use various massage techniques to relieve pain, including:
- Swedish massage
- Tui Na
- Jin Shin Jyutsu
- Thai massage
A quiet, darkened room and soothing music combined with massage therapy can help the patient relax and relieve stress and anxiety.
Meditation increases mindfulness and induces relaxation. Studies show that it can help patients reduce pain. It is a non-invasive, safe, patient-friendly method of pain management. Meditation helps the patient learn to focus on the present moment without judgment. It can help clear normal, negative thoughts or worries that exacerbate pain.
Finding a Pain Management Specialist in New York and New Jersey
If you have experienced a work injury, you don’t have time to wait around for results. It is essential for you to get back to work and live your life. Workers’ Comp Doctor is a free directory of physicians trained in pain management for work-related and auto accident injuries. These doctors are authorized to treat injured workers by the WC Board and accept workers’ compensation insurance, no-fault, and other plans.
Our doctors have helped other injured workers by developing pain treatment plans. We have a workers’ comp pain management doctor who can do the same for you. Call the Workers’ Comp Doctor at (888) 590-4030 or fill out the online contact form today.
Don’t spend another day in pain. Reach out to us to learn more about what we can do for you.