Pain is part of the human condition. We all know that. However, some people know it more than others. They’ve drawn the short end of the pain stick. For them, pain is chronic, a constant uninvited guest at the table.
At Workers Compensation Psychological Network, New Jersey’s only network of trained and certified workers’ comp psychology clinicians, we often see patients who are afflicted with chronic pain. For these patients, chronic pain can lead to depressive reactions that subsequently influence their subjective experience of pain levels and what they consider to be “tolerable” functional capabilities. These injured workers are lost in a maze.
Some were sufferers even before their workers’ comp injury, which worsened the condition. Others developed chronic pain following the injury. Regardless, many of these patients have difficulty returning to work. A clinician’s role should not be to suggest to these patients that their pain is not real, because it is. Rather, working closely with the patient’s physician and claim adjuster, clinicians should provide common sensible, compassionate treatment so patients can move down Recovery Road with a steady return to work trajectory.
The current system for treating injured workers with mental health issues, especially chronic pain, is not properly focused on a speedy return to work. It is overly fragmented and often appears to employers, claim adjusters and injured workers to be a treatment black hole. Indeed, there is an urgent need for a more systemic and integrated approach in which there is a constant focus on returning to work in some appropriate capacity. We call this recovery that is sooner, faster and smarter.
New Jersey’s injured workers and the men and women who employ them deserve nothing less.