How Chronic Pain Resulting From
Workplace Injuries Impacts People’s Lives

Chronic Pain and What it Causes

In 2021/22, over half a million workers (565,000) suffered a non-fatal workplace injury. A sizable majority of these cases were relatively minor, resulting in the employee taking less than a week off work. For 150,000 people, however, their workplace injury resulted in the need to take over seven days absence from work. And for some, long term complications and chronic Musculoskeletal pain became their new ‘normal’.

Slips, trips, falls, crush injuries – all these can leave an employee with ongoing Musculoskeletal pain. Less dramatic but equally serious are Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). These are injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs.

Work-related MSDs are conditions in which:

  1. The work environment and performance of tasks lead to the condition developing; and/or
  2. The condition worsens or lasts longer because of the work environment and performance of duties.

 

MSD conditions include:

  • Sprains, strains, and tears
  • Back pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • RSI
  • Hernias

These conditions develop gradually over time.

What causes Musculoskeletal disorders?

MSDs can be caused by several common workplace tasks, including:

  • Lifting large, heavy objects.
  • Routine exposure to vibration.
  • Routine overhead work that involves reaching and twisting.
  • Work that involves having the neck in chronic flexion position.
  • Performing repetitive tasks, particularly using the same hand or arm action.
  • Sustained or excessive force.
  • Carrying out a task for an extended time.
  • Working with display screen equipment, i.e. PCs, laptops, mobile phones.
  • Using hand-held power tools for a long time.
  • Operating heavy vehicles, long-distance driving, or driving over rough terrain.

Poor working environments and practices, for example, not taking regular breaks and lack of risk assessments around tasks that are known to cause MSDs also contribute to the conditions development and can influence the severity suffered by the employee.

Can musculoskeletal disorders cause chronic pain?

Yes. The most common types of musculoskeletal pain include:

  • Bone pain: Workplace injuries such as bone fractures or other musculoskeletal injuries can cause bone pain.
  • Joint pain: Joint pain often occurs alongside stiffness and inflammation. The stiffness and pain may be worse first thing in the morning and/or when doing strenuous activities.
  • Muscle pain: This can include muscle spasmscramps, and continuous aching and is often cited as ‘back pain’ by patients.
  • Tendon and ligament pain: Ligaments and tendons, the bands of tissue that connect joints and bones are especially vulnerable to overuse injuries, for example RSI which can result in long-term chronic pain.

A comprehensive rehabilitation plan can improve chronic musculoskeletal pain. For Solicitors acting for Claimants, expert evidence to obtain an admission of liability can secure interim payments so rehabilitation can be accessed quickly, thereby increasing its effectiveness.

The role of expert witnesses in workplace accident  musculoskeletal chronic pain claims

Expert witnesses specialising in chronic, ongoing musculoskeletal pain are often engaged to provide an opinion on workplace negligence cases to help establish the timeline of events, the cause of the condition, whether the workplace injury caused the chronic pain suffered by the Claimant, and the future prognosis. As with all workplace personal injury claims, it must be proven that the employer owed the employee a duty of care, they breached their duty, and as a result of the breach, the employee suffered harm which led to chronic pain.

One of the challenges facing a Claimant in chronic pain cases is proving, on the balance of probabilities, that the injury they suffered led directly to chronic, ongoing pain. Expert witnesses specialising in pain understand the connections between nerves, tendons, and the musculoskeletal structure and can link (or unlink) the initial injury to the long-term pain-related complications suffered by the Claimant.

By gathering all of the available evidence, including details of the accident and clinical notes, a pain expert witness will assess whether the workplace injury resulted in long-term chronic pain. They will also look at the prognosis, likelihood of recovery, and further treatment needed, in addition to any costs and future care requirements. This information is then collated, analysed, and summarised in the form of an expert witness report.

Final words

The impact of musculoskeletal chronic pain is often misunderstood and underestimated. The reality is that chronic pain can cause patients to suffer significantly, leading to time off work (or having to change careers), depression, and a grim future of endless medical appointments and medication. If your client has suffered ongoing, chronic musculoskeletal pain following a workplace accident, an expert witness specialising in pain can assist the Court in deciding whether or not negligence caused the condition, and if so, the quantum of the award.

How can Expert Court Reports Ltd help?

Please call us on 01865 587865, email office@expertcourtreports.co.uk, or request a call by completing our online form to find out more about our chronic pain experts.

To discuss any issues raised in this article, please call us on 01865 587865, email office@expertcourtreports.co.uk, or request a call by completing our online form.