The Work Injury Report - Volume III

Pain Syndromes, Fibromyalgia and Work & RGW Results in Fibromyalgia Cases

Pain Syndromes, Fibromyalgia and Work

Do you ever feel like you were run over by a truck when you awake in the morning? Do you get home from work and just want to collapse in front of the televisions? Do you have aches and pains all over your body and you don’t know why? When you go to bed, do you find yourself doing everything but sleeping? Do you feel depressed more often than not?

While you may not know it, you may be suffering from fibromyalgia, or from a similar pain syndrome.  And believe it or not, your work could be a cause of it.

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome which affects a great number of people in the workplace.  It cuts across a broad spectrum of workers, including teacher, grocery workers, secretaries and office personnel.  The syndrome is diagnosed in women disproportionately, although it is found in men as well.  Criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia are:

  •      Tender points
  •      Fatigue
  •      Sleep Disturbance
  •      Musculoskeletal Pain

People who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia or other pain syndromes or other pain syndromes, however don’t always have all of the symptoms. Those symptoms include:

  •      Depression
  •      Anxiety
  •      Headaches
  •      Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  •      Jaw Pain
  •      Memory and Concentration Problems
  •      Variety of Physical Pains

While medical science now widely recognizes fibromyalgia as a concrete debilitating condition, there is still some debate concerning its diagnosis.  Some doctors may refer to the symptoms as myofascial pain syndrome or chronic fatigue syndrome, but no matter what you call this illness, one of the underlying explanations for the cause or aggravation of the symptoms is clear…work.  Specifically, the physical and emotional stress of your job can be responsible for the adverse effects fibromyalgia has on your health.  In other words, your work often has a detrimental effect on your body’s ability to maintain its homeostasis or health balance.

In addition a great deal of information and research indicate that one traumatic event such as a car accident or a slip and fall injury, can act as a catalyst or trigger to the development of many symptoms, ultimately leading to fibromyalgia or another pain syndrome.

Fibromyalgia may be diagnosed by various doctors, including orthopedic doctors, chiropractors and rheumatologists.  Typically the doctor will give the patient a tender point examination, poking 18 different tender point arears which are found throughout the body, such as in the neck, shoulder, chest, hips, elbows and knees.  If there is sensitivity in many of these 18 points, the fibromyalgia diagnosis may be made.  The diagnosis may also be made based on a combination of tender points and other symptoms the patient experiences.  It is not necessarily required that a tender point analysis be the basis for a chronic pain syndrome diagnosis.

It is very important to seek out treatment for fibromyalgia and its concurrent symptoms. A pain-syndrome suffer will only get worse if treatment is not sought in the early stages of the condition.  While that may mean taking some time off work, it is important to do so, so that you will be able to return to work and ultimately manage your life and health effectively.  Many times when fibromyalgia or a different pain syndrome is diagnosed and reported to the employer, it can be established that it is work-related.  Then workers’ compensation benefits should be provided.  These benefits include treatment and temporary disability pay.  If multi-level treatment programs are implemented, the patient has a good chance to maintain relatively good health in the future.  The workers’ compensation system may provide for future care for fibromyalgia.  These may include physical therapy, swimming pool therapy, medications, a less rigorous work schedule, exercise programs, sleep therapy and counseling.  Importantly, a fibromyalgia patient must avoid physical and emotional stress.  Some jobs need to be modified so that the worker is not exposed to high levels of stress on a regular basis.

Think about it.  Do the symptoms discussed here sound familiar?  Maybe someone you know has fibromyalgia or a different pain syndrome, but hasn’t done anything about it.  Don’t just ignore the signals.  Chances are that your or someone you know works in a job that is demanding and stressful.  Most likely the symptoms will only get worse, which means more emotional complaints, sleep problems and fatigue.  Fibromyalgia can be very debilitating and can lead to a level of disability for which Social Security disability benefits may also be obtained. 

Don’t sacrifice your health.  If these symptoms familiar, advise your doctor or see a rheumatologist.  Remember to let him or her know about what you do at work on a daily basis.  This often assists in diagnosis and a treatment plan.


Results in Fibromyalgia Cases

The Law Firm of Rowen, Gurvey & Win has helped many clients with their workers’ compensation claims for fibromyalgia and other related chronic pain syndromes. 

In one case, an employee of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board sustained physical injuries coupled with stress leading to fibromyalgia and other physical and emotional conditions.  The Law Firm of Rowen, Gurvey & Win submitted evidence to the Judge showing that the worker’s physical and emotional problems were related to her work.  The judge ordered an award of 63½ percent permanent disability and lifetime medical care.  In his Opinion, the judge wrote, “The applicant…sustained injury arising out of and in the course of employment to her internal system and psyche including systemic lupus erythematosus, gastrointestinal, sinus and respiratory problems, musculoskeletal disability, secondary fibromyalgia, headaches and secondary weight gain.”  He further wrote, “At trial the applicant credibly testified about her positon and the stresses, both physical and emotional, of that job.”

The Firm has been successful in the settlement of many fibromyalgia cases.  Most cases settle in the range of $75,000.00 to $600,000.00, depending upon the severity of symptoms, the need for medical care, the age of the individual, and the degree of permanent disability. 

One claim involved an operating room nurse who feel, triggering the onset of generalized pain.  She was treated with a medication that affected her hips and knees, and left her with a prognosis including multiple surgeries and total disability.  The defendant in the case chose not to go to trial.  The Firm settled the case for $575,000.00.  Our client obtained Social Security disability as well, and will be able to secure collateral health care benefits.

In another case, an elderly school teacher with previous health problems was stressed at work, mainly due to a poor combination of poor management and student disruptiveness.  The result was a secondary generalized pain syndrome.  Her case settled for $75,000.

In the recent past, the Firm, has settled many cases in the full range between these two extremes.  Some cases settle by structured settlement guaranteeing fixed compensation over many years providing for security to those with complex chronic pain syndromes.  In addition, for those who continue to work, the Firm has stipulated to variable permanent disability rates and lifetime medical care for multi-disciplinary aspects of physical and emotional treatment.

For many people suffering from pain syndromes, there is an independent opportunity to obtain Social Security disability benefits, disability retirement, benefits, pension and long-term disability insurance benefits.  The Law Firm of Rowen, Gurvey & Win work closely with other attorneys who specialize in these areas to ensure all of their client needs are met.

The attorneys of the Law Firm of Rowen, Gurvey & Win lecture on fibromyalgia and generalized pain, and how these conditions related to the workers’ compensation system.

Making a false or fraudulent worker’s compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in prison or fines of up to $150,000.00 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.