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  • Writer's pictureRichard Moon

Chronic Pain

One feature of some of the more serious cases we deal with is often chronic pain.

Chronic pain in itself simply means pain that continues for a long time, but in the context of legal cases it generally refers to pain in excess of what the physical injury would normally be expected to cause. Sometimes there will have been an initial injury which normally would be expected to get better by itself, but where the pain doesn't get better, or even gets worse.

Chronic pain can have a 'conventional' cause such as an unhealed injury, but sometimes the injury can trigger or aggravate other conditions such as fibromyalgia, or complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Sometimes psychological injuries such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can lead someone to experience worse pain than would otherwise be the case and to develop somatoform disorders.

Someone with a more cynical view of this might be tempted to dismiss such cases. Isn't the real reason why someone with a compensation claim says they suffer from more pain than the injury suggests, simply that they are exaggerating in order to get more compensation? Certainly the insurance companies that defend these claims will often take a lot of convincing.

However, what always convinces me about these cases is that it isn't just someone saying "it hurts a lot". Real chronic pain changes lives, not just of those who suffer from it but those around them too. Would someone faking severe pain be so committed to the lie that they leave their job, often putting both themselves and their families in real financial strife, with no guarantee of a payout at the end of it? Would they really turn those closest to them into their unpaid carers? Would they really give up driving, their hobbies, their social lives, all in order just to possibly get the money to put themselves back into the financial situation they were in before it all started?

The other thing, of course, is that chronic pain conditions happen to people who aren't making legal claims too. And if they happen to a certain number of people who have no compensation "incentive", isn't it reasonable to assume a certain number of those involved in accidents might be expected to suffer chronic pain, especially as by definition those people have suffered a potential trigger - their accident.

The Guardian is currently running a series of articles about chronic pain, including some of the scientific thinking behind it, and stories from sufferers about what it is like to live with pain that never goes away, and how they have developed strategies to cope. They are well worth reading.

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