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Chronic Pain and Return to Work

The August/September issue of Case in Point Magazine ran an excellent article by Mary Harris on how to identify and manage the variables of chronic pain in return-to-work situations.

In her article, Ms. Harris talks about the role that fear, depression and anxiety often play in making it harder for employees with chronic pain to return to work. She also discusses the range of therapeutic intervention available to treat these psychosocial comorbid conditions.

Ms. Harris’ real-world expertise as a case manager is soundly backed up by our data at MDGuidelines. So much so, that we formulate our data to show both physiological return-to-work durations as well as normative durations that include psychosocial components. When case managers address both the physical and the psychosocial aspects therapeutically, employees often return to work sooner, thus avoiding the additional depression related to loss of work and the social contacts from employment.

In her article, Ms. Harris also talks about the time when despite all planning and effort, an employee cannot return to their former job because the employer cannot accommodate their work restrictions. “When this occurs,” she says “I find that it is useful to view this as a fork in the road, not the end of the road.”

I find this to be a wise and caring approach. At Reed Group, we sometimes see durations data that is skewed a bit longer than it should otherwise be because of the reluctance of employers and/or case managers to recognize that an injured employee will simply not ever be able to return to their former work. Regarding the situation as a “fork” and not an “end,” as Ms. Harris says, can make a huge difference in when and how that difficult decision is made.

To read “The Forest For the Trees: How To Identify the Variables of Chronic Pain To Achieve Holistic Return to Work” by Mary Harris, MS, CRC, click here. Then scroll down to “Case in Point Highlights” and click on “Read This Month’s Issue” and go to page 35.

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