image depicting Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, abbreviated as CRPS, is a form of chronic pain that can develop after a traumatic injury at the railroad. CRPS often develops after a significant traumatic injury such as a broken arm, leg, wrist or ankle. However, it can also develop from relatively minor injuries such as an otherwise-simple sprain.

There are two types of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – CRPS-1 and CRPS-2, sometimes referred to as “Type I” and “Type II”. Most instances of this syndrome are CRPS-1/Type I, which occurs after an injury but is not associated with specific nerve damage. A minority of cases are CRPS-2/Type II which results from damage to a particular nerve in the initial injury.

When an injured railroad worker develops complex regional pain syndrome, he or she experiences pain that is far higher than expected, and lasts much longer than expected. This pain can be a burning or squeezing sensation, and might spread from the injury site to the entire arm or leg. The person can experience severe pain with only a light touch to the area.

Other symptoms can accompany the pain and assist doctors in identifying and diagnosing Complex Regional Pain Syndrome:

  • Changes in skin color and/or skin temperature, which can result from changes in blood flow to the affected area;
  • Joint stiffness that may be a result of the CRPS, as well as from the injured person avoiding movement of the limb to avoid the resulting pain, which causes stiffness and a loss of flexibility;
  • Impaired muscle strength and muscle atrophy (muscle breakdown), which can again result from the pain syndrome itself as well as the injured person’s natural tendency to prevent movement to prevent pain; and
  • Changes in skin texture, sweating, hair and nail growth, which result from the changes in blood flow to the injured limb.

It is important for anyone with an arm or leg injury to be on the lookout for these symptoms that typically begin within four to six weeks after the injury (but can also develop within that time frame from a surgical repair of the initial injury). It is a difficult condition to diagnose, as a person may not have all of the symptoms and may not be aware that his or her pain is more excessive than “average”. An early diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome may result in a better outcome. Some individuals recover from CRPS, while others may be permanently disabled by the condition. This is particularly true where CRPS has also resulted in increased anxiety and depression.

CRPS is rare, with the Cleveland Clinic estimating that there are approximately 200,000 cases each year. There are still many unknowns with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome including why some people might develop this debilitating side effect, and others do not. Anyone who suffers an injury might develop this syndrome, but it is more likely in middle-aged people, women, smokers, and individuals with diabetes.

Generally, under the Federal Employers Liability Act – the injured railroad workers compensation law – the railroad is responsible for ALL damages caused by their negligence. Even if a person has a rare disorder develop as a result of the injury, the railroad is responsible for all of the damages and extreme pain and suffering that results. This is called the “eggshell skull rule.”

For this, and many other reasons, an injured worker should not rush to resolve their case directly with a railroad claims representative without understanding the full extent of their injuries. Each person’s body responds to injury differently, and a relatively minor-seeming injury can actually be much worse. An experienced railroad attorney can help you determine the full value of your claim. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.