Doctors themselves commonly refer to pain being whatever their patient says it is, showing just how subjective ‘pain’ can be. The matter is further complicated when it comes to considering the causes of pain, which themselves are often as multifaceted as the pain itself.
Medical parlance splits ‘pain’ into two headings: acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain is described as pain lasting no longer than 30 days, whereas chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts more than 12 or 24 weeks – and this is where confusion can set in.
Acute pain seems easy to understand as any pain that is short-lived. Chronic pain, however, brings with it a whole host of connotations and can fill many claimants, patients, doctors and lawyers alike with a sense of foreboding.
In the context of personal injury chronic pain is even more complex as it brings with it many questions as to the longevity and the cause – and chronic pain can incorporate many complex conditions including but not limited to fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome (CPRS), chronic pain syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, conversion disorders, and somatoform disorders.
Undoubtedly the labels attributed to chronic pain conditions are there to assist but, with such negative connotations, are they helpful? In my experience it is always beneficial for an injured party to be given a diagnosis but, if that diagnosis does not fully explain the cause of the pain, will it prevent them from being able either to live with or to treat the pain?
The treatment of many pain conditions is based on a multi-disciplinary approach that incorporates treatment from the bio-psychosocial model, which combines biological, psychological, and social factors when determining someone’s physical and mental health. Pain is not necessarily always physical, especially following a traumatic accident, and it can often have a significant psychological component.
When dealing with personal injury cases involving chronic pain it is important not to become fixated on the phraseology but instead to focus on how an individual’s pain can be treated, and on finding a way for them to live with any residual pain. This is when pain management rehabilitation comes into its own as it helps injured parties learn to manage their pain and better cope with any difficulties they may experience along the way.
James Knight. Chartered Legal Executive. Personal Injury department.
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