Chronic Pain

What is chronic pain?

When it comes to chronic pain syndrome, there is no universal definition, but it is often explained as pain that has persisted for longer than 12 weeks, or beyond what would be expected to have been a normal healing period.

The term ‘chronic pain syndrome’ is an umbrella term used to define long-term pain which can arise from a variety of different sources. One of the most common triggers of chronic pain disorder is an injury, such as one caused by a road accident or fall, where the pain lingers after the initial physical damage has healed – with no obvious cause.

In some circumstances, the symptoms of chronic pain syndrome do not arise until a long time after the injury has occurred, which can prove confusing and frustrating for both the patient and medical professionals alike.

In many cases of chronic pain syndrome, pain relieving drugs are prescribed in order to manage the pain, however, this can cause some undesirable side effects for the patient, such as drowsiness, dizziness or digestive problems. This forces many sufferers to turn to alternative therapies to alleviate the pain.

How Ellis Jones can help you

Chronic pain disorders can be devastating to you and your family. Therefore, it is vital that you work with solicitors who have a strong track record in recognising how to identify the signs of chronic pain, understanding the best approach to handle a chronic pain claim and ensuring you get an appropriate level of compensation. Our team has this experience and will take an empathetic, sensitive approach when dealing with your claim.

Due to the imprecise nature of this illness, this area of personal injury litigation is extremely complex and requires expert understanding and analysis of the medical evidence. Insurance companies are generally suspicious about cases where an expert cannot explain the symptoms of an injury or conclusively attribute them to the accident. In the absence of a perceived ‘orthodox’ explanation, insurers may refuse to accept that symptoms have been caused by the accident at all. As a result, any compensation offered might be substantially less than had the injury been straightforward. We have an experienced team who are able to identify chronic pain cases at an early stage.

Types of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is not fully understood by medical science. This can make it difficult for you to have your symptoms recognised and properly supported or compensated.

Chronic pain conditions can also take many forms. There may be some physical changes to the body which have caused or contributed to the development of chronic pain symptoms. Equally, there may be no detectable physical changes at all.

Psychological factors are thought to play a part in the vast majority of chronic pain conditions. In some conditions, they might be considered the sole source of the chronic pain.

Below are some of the different kinds of chronic pain condition:

Chronic Pain Syndrome

Chronic Pain Syndrome is a name used widely in connection with chronic pain. It is a general term, but often refers to situations in which long-lasting pain has become linked with further complications, such as depression, anxiety, tiredness, and other psychological or emotional reactions. These complications may then increase sensations of pain, setting up a ‘vicious cycle’ – e.g. you become depressed about constantly feeling pain and the depression in turn heightens your sensitivity to that pain.

Fibromyalgia

Both Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are sometimes labelled as Chronic Widespread Pain conditions. Although symptoms can vary between them, widespread pain and ongoing, inexplicable fatigue are common elements.

Some of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Headaches
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle spasms
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Tinnitus
  • Bladder problems
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Some medical experts believe that the cause is found within how the brain and central nervous system handle the pain signals it receives from around the body, ‘magnifying’ the incoming sensations to abnormal levels.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is one of the more easily identifiable chronic pain conditions, although it is a very rare and has strict criteria for diagnosis. The disorder usually affects arms or legs, causing localised effects such as:

  • Swelling
  • Discolouration of the skin (usually red or purple blotches)
  • Burning pain
  • Increased sensitivity to touch
  • Hot or cold sensations
  • Changes to hair or nail growth in the affected area

The root of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is believed to be in the central nervous system. The symptoms of increased sensitivity are thought to develop from a dysfunction of the body’s system for inhibiting pain signals.

Somatoform Disorders

This term actually covers a range of chronic pain conditions. The unifying element is an experience of physical pain by the sufferer without any obvious, physical evidence to explain its cause.

Unlike some other kinds of chronic pain disorder, Somatoform Disorders are ones in which the ongoing chronic pain is attributed to an entirely psychological source.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis – M.E.) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as the name suggests, is long-term condition characterised by extreme fatigue. However, it can also include many other symptoms, such as

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulties focusing, thinking or remembering.

The cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not known; theories suggest it may be triggered by a number of causes including psychological stress and viral infections.

FAQs

How can I claim compensation for chronic pain?

If you’re looking to claim compensation for chronic pain, you will need to be able to prove that an accident or injury caused by another’s negligence was to blame for your chronic pain symptoms.

The value of your chronic pain compensation claim will depend on the severity of your symptoms and the long-term effects it has had on your working capabilities and need for care. When making a claim, medical experts will be instructed to assess your symptoms and advise on the effects your accident has had, and will have on your life.

How much compensation could I receive for a chronic pain condition?

Chronic pain conditions are typically long-lasting or permanent consequences, so if it can be proved that you have developed chronic pain because of someone else’s negligence, the compensation value can be substantial.

When valuing a personal injury, lawyers will take into account two general considerations:

  1. How much pain and suffering an injury has caused you.
  2. How the injury has affected your enjoyment of life.

Chronic pain conditions are potentially high value because they often involve a high extent of pain and suffering, and over an extended period of time and, almost invariably, has a high impact on the sufferer’s enjoyment of life and ability to work.

The Judicial College Guidelines is one of the main tools used by solicitors and judges to establish a rough valuation for an injury. For example, the guidelines indicate that general ‘pain disorders’, which are of a moderately serious nature, should be valued in the region of £19,770 to £36,120, dependent on circumstances. For severe Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, the guidance suggests that between £49,270 to £78,840 is appropriate.

How long do you have to make a claim for chronic pain?

Personal injury claims can only be made within certain legal time limits. Usually a claim must be made within 3 years of the date on which the injury occurred. If your claim has not been settled or lodged with the court in that time.

If you reported chronic pain symptoms which your lawyers did not sufficiently investigate, they may have failed in their duty of care towards you. As such, you may be able to claim compensation from your former lawyers instead – for the losses their professional negligence has caused you.

Our Experts

David McWilliam

Partner, Solicitor and Head of Personal Injury & Sports Law

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Emily Ferris

Chartered Legal Executive

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Sandra Bostock

Chartered Legal Executive

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Samantha Bicknell

Secretary

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Mary-Jane Catchpole

Secretary

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