Life in Pain: Dealing with Work Comp

Life in Pain: Dealing with Work Comp

Workers compensation is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, I have no out of pocket expenses for the treatment of my Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). However, the amount of time it takes to get anything done is not only aggravating and stressful, it also has the potential to make my condition worse.

For example, it has taken up to ten days to get my prescription filled after the doctor prescribes it. Ten days from dropping it off at the pharmacy until the time I take it home. That means ten days of withdrawal from both anti-depressants and pain medications.

Withdrawal is hard enough on your body, going through it once. It’s even worse when you have no choice but to go through it every month.

bigstock-work compOrganizing my workers compensation and my treatments is a full time job. Everyday, I will spend three to four hours researching new treatments and different programs that help CRPS. I will spend at least an additional three hours talking to my lawyer and my doctor’s office. Even with a lawyer representing me, I end up doing most of the legwork in my treatment. It’s not as easy as calling and seeing if a program or a certain doctor accepts my insurance.

Currently, I’m trying to get approval to attend the Washington Rehabilitation Institute’s Complex Regional Pain Syndrome inpatient program. This program has a wonderful success rate and could push me into remission. What is so special about this program is that they put an epidural catheter in your back for several weeks to allow you to detox properly from narcotics and participate in physical therapy without experiencing pain. The goal is to ‘normalize’ the nerve responses, and remind them that the area really doesn’t hurt.

After much convincing, I was able to get my doctor to recommend Washington Rehab to my workers compensation adjuster. The adjuster then sends the program to a review panel. Unfortunately, the panel approved the program but not the location. So now I have to search for another program that I already know does not exist closer to my home.

If this process is not complex enough already, it is made even worse by the fact that no one talks to each other directly. I talk to my doctor and my lawyer. My lawyer and my doctor talk to my adjuster’s lawyer. My adjuster’s lawyer talks to the adjuster. The adjuster then talks to the potential program.

It’s not even a simple matter of everyone making a phone call. My doctor has to write his recommendation in my chart notes. My lawyer has to copy and show the appropriate chart note to my case worker’s lawyer, who in turn shows it to the adjuster. All of this has to happen before they can even start arguing if this is the program I should be attending. It ends up taking several months.

Meanwhile, I’m not getting treatment — I’m getting worse.

When I finished physical therapy in February I could still walk, granted, with the assistance of a cane or walker. I was also prescribed a wheelchair (which my workers comp has yet to approve) because my physical therapist knew I’d keep going downhill physically without further treatment.

I still haven’t gotten into a rehab program. I haven’t had any further treatment, other than monthly doctor visits to refill my prescriptions for pain medications that hardly scratch the surface of my physical pain. I’ve had to rent a wheelchair on my own and now it is the only way that I can get around.

It’s slow, it’s frustrating, and it’s potentially causing long term, irreversible damage to my legs. The worst part is that, as best as I can tell, this is how things usually go with workers compensation. I can’t believe that there’s not a better system, or that it’s not somehow better regulated. It seems to be perfectly normal not to have a call returned for weeks after leaving multiple messages.

Now that my adjuster has lawyered up, the process has come to an agonizing halt. It doesn’t seem fair that workers compensation, which is supposed to be helping me after an on-the-job injury, is even allowed to get a lawyer.

Anything to keep me from receiving the necessary treatments, I guess.

Before I started this whole ordeal, I thought that the worker’s compensation system was established to help people who got injured on the job one way or another, to stay healthy, get better, return to work, and back to being productive members of society as quickly as possible. That couldn’t be further from what I’ve experienced.

But for now, I keep trudging along. I keep making my phone calls and doing my research. My hope is that either I will get approved for the program that I want or they will settle my case so that I can choose my own doctors and treatments.

Either way, it will take more time and much more damage to my body to get there.

Something in this system has to be changed. It isn’t right to be treated like this.

Amanda SiebeAmanda Siebe lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son. She writes about her daily battle with chronic pain and CRPS in her blog “Life in Pain.”

The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.

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Amanda back in 02 I got electrocuted at my work and was in work comp for three years. My work comp doc diagnosed Rsd. ( sorry don’t call it the other name still) I had to go through my atty, their many docs, the adjuster, physical therapy, nerve blocks, so many pills I can’t remember. I couldn’t walk or use my left arm. (My left arm atrophied) I did alot of the research for both my atty and docs to treat me. Now I am back to work, I am offf the cane( mostly in recovering from knee surgery. Doing ok rsd spread to it) I am in remission with flares. I jumped comp with frustration and disgust. What a joke. No one understands my pain. I went back to 911 dispatch 7 years ago. I have a great group of co workers and boss. They jump in when I flare, and even did research on my condition. I hope u get better treatment fast. I believe that quick treatment saved me and why I am where I am now. From being told by 7 docs that I’ll never walk or use my left arm again, to defying all of that. Not to say I’m have no pain, every Damn day, but I can manage til a flare up and nothing works. Take care and love your articles. Thank you for the awareness.


Amanda, I went through the process, start to finish, with Work Comp for three and a half years. Your story sounds a lot like mine. The feelings of helpless and that you, of all ppl, are holding things/responsible things together bc no one talks to each other. I remember thinking I should get paid to do all the legwork..I was a professional coordinator! Work comp is the devil; no bones about it. They will lie to you, they will delay and deny (their fav game), and always remember THEY DO NOT CARE no matter how nice they seem. But, like you have been doing, you have to keep fighting and have yourself and your lawyer be your best defense. an aggressive lawyer will start probing around for you, and may push you to the settlement phase much faster/court hearings. I hung in there that long, seeing over 75 different docs (not a one would say anything other than CRPS), mean and aggressive docs, arguing with lawyer, confusion, work comp having cut off my wages saying I’d reached MMI two years before the resolution of my case. They want you to surrender and give up. IF so, they win and no more money spent on you, your treatment, and future treatment. Don’t give them the power to take the fight out of you; the fight for what is right (they represent all that is wrong with the system).

Kelly Grubbs

I totally understand the frustration associated with Workman’s Comp. I have been in this situation since 3/2010 and it is totally unfair! I do have a lawyer, yet I seem to get nowhere fast! In horrible pain everyday.


I am in the same boat as you. Complex regional pain syndrome type 2. been on work comp for 4 years. I would go ahead and get prepared to file for stomach problems, chiropractic care, urologist, podiatrist, and many many more doctors. Watch your blood pressure spikes too during a high pain cycle, it can get scary. Best of luck to you!

DJ Blass

I have not worked in five years due to catastrophic work comp injuries which at this point are acknowledged by work comp and my former employer to be work related. I guess this means I have “won” my case according to my lawyers. I have also been fortunate in receiving a work related total disability pension for orthopedic injuries.

Exactly what I have won is totally dubious. I am so totally disabled that my activities are very limited. Formerly I was an athletic and very active person who performed well at work and enjoyed my life. Now I am in chronic pain and spend most of my time in my home and take pain medications and muscle relaxants that leave me cognitively impaired. Like you my whole life has been devoted to fighting the system and obtaining medical treatment. On top of all this I have been the victim of documented medical malpractice by a neurosurgeon at Kaiser who operated on my neck for work related injuries and I find that I am unable to collect damages. I now have depression secondary to injuries due to work comp.

Hi Amanda – sounds like you have assembled your team and are trying to play the Work Comp game. I strongly urge your to be sure to evaluate the play of each team member. Attorneys can be replaced as can other members of the team and that may make a big difference in your results.

Best of luck, I have played the game a few times with my wife having Fibromyalgia and a very nasty knee injury.

Gail Hodges

Amanda: Working in the system; which I am doing, I find they have two speeds Slow & Stop. Good luck to you.

John Quintner

Amanda, after spending many years trying to understand and work within systems of workers’ compensation I have come to the conclusion that “workers’ compensation” is like a “dinosaur” that had a place in an age long past. Your case is a good example of people being made to suffer for their ongoing pain and disability. Sorry to be so pessimistic!