Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: Proving CRPS Disability
Because many symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome are subjective, proving disability can be quite difficult. In order to increase the likelihood of receiving an approval for long term disability benefits, it's important to know how to substantiate your CRPS disability claim. An Ocala FL LTD attorney at CJ Henry Law Firm, PLLC can help you ensure that you have the documentation necessary for your claim. Contact us today to learn more.
What Is CRPS?
CRPS is a chronic disease affecting the sympathetic nervous system — the part of your nervous system that controls your fight-or-flight response. The disease affects more women than men and can cause such debilitating pain it can interfere with your quality of life, ability to work, and your mental health.
Documenting the Symptoms of Your CRPS Disability
Since CRPS is a rare disease, your first step is educating your insurance company about the symptoms and long-term effects of the disease. Provide a detailed description of the disease, a description of symptoms, and how CRPS limits your ability to work. Your physician should be able to assist you with this information. Symptoms of the disease include the following:
- Constant, intense burning or throbbing pain, usually in your extremities
- Sensitivity to cold or touch
- Joint stiffness, swelling, and possible damage
- Muscle spasms, tremors, or weakness
- Decreased movement in the affected body part
- Changes in skin temperature and color
- Sweating and fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
The first symptoms are usually pain, burning, swelling, changes in temperature, and hypersensitivity to cold and touch. The pain from these symptoms can be unbearable and in extreme cases cause muscle atrophy. For some individuals, the symptoms may disappear on their own. For others, the symptoms can continue for months or years.
The symptoms of CRPS can change. Your arm might be cold and pale, then develop muscle spasms, tightening, and changes to the skin and nails. The symptoms may transfer from one part of the body to another. For example, symptoms may begin in an arm and spread to your opposite leg. Once these changes occur, the disease is often irreversible.
Advanced cases of CRPS can cause extreme sensitivity to touch or a slight bump, trigger excruciating pain. The pain may be accompanied by other symptoms such as skin color and temperature.
Your Diagnosis Can Help Provide Proof of Your CRPS Disability
Your insurance company requires complete information for any long-term disability diagnosis. It can be a challenge to meet this requirement because the symptoms of CRPS vary and there is no single test to proves CRPS.
First, schedule a meeting with your physician. He or she will start with a detailed medical history, your symptoms of CRPS, and a complete physical examination.
Arriving at a diagnosis of complex regional pain syndrome is a process of elimination. Your doctor will rule out other causes of your symptoms such as Lyme Disease, arthritis, or muscle disease. If your physician suspects you have CRPS, he or she can conduct several tests to aid their diagnosis.
- A bone scan can identify any patterns of unusual activity in your affected limb
- An MRI can show tissue changes consistent with CRPS
- Sympathetic Nervous System Tests including a thermograph to measure skin temperature and blood flow changes; these results are compared to the unaffected limb.
- X-rays will reveal the loss of minerals in your bones
Make Sure You Are Receiving the Appropriate Treatment
The insurance company will need proof you have been receiving appropriate treatment for CRPS. There is no known cure for CRPS but there are many treatments that are successful at reducing symptoms. Common treatments and therapy options include:
- Medication. Many medications are helpful in reducing pain and swelling.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs: aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
- Opioid pain medication for severe pain: oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone
- Anti-seizure and anti-depression medication: gabapentin, amitriptyline, nortriptyline, or duloxetine
- Sympathetic nerve block: An anesthetic injected into nerves block pain signals.
- Neural stimulation: The nerves are stimulated with an electrical or magnetic current. A spinal cord stimulation requires minor surgery.
Experimental treatments include Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) and Ketamine.
Proving Inability to Work Due to CRPS Disability
The insurance company is more likely to approve your claim if you provide your symptoms and information regarding how your symptoms affect your ability to work. For example, if your CRPS pain and inflammation is in your arms and hands, working on a computer may be next to impossible. If your legs and feed are affected, you may not be able to travel for work.
You will need your doctor's opinions as well as reports about your treatment. The doctor's report should include the frequency and severity of your symptoms, their observations during office visits, findings from your physical exam, your restrictions and limitations that keep you from working.