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Can communication change perception of pain?

A workplace injury can take many different shapes. Some workers suffer repetitive stress injuries, while others are crushed by moving machinery. Others suffer cuts when moving materials or broken bones when they fall from scaffolding. The list of potential injuries goes on and on. Yet, one type of injury, a back injury, accounts for about one-third of all workers' compensation injuries, which means that medical diagnoses and treatment of these injuries is critical to ensuring that workers can get back to their jobs.

According to some medical professionals, how an individual rates the severity of his or her injury can depend on how his or her medical provider talks about the injury. For example, some claim that asking an individual about his or her injury rather than about his or her progress shifts the focus toward what is still wrong, rather than what is going right. They claim that this, in turn, can cause an injured worker to misrepresent the extent of his or her pain. These medical professionals claim that medical imaging can do the same-- injured individuals may report more severe pain after receiving image test results even though there has been no change to the injury or its recovery.

The fear among some medical professionals and workers' compensation claims adjudicators is that the current form of communication between injured workers and their doctors is leading to medical responses that are too aggressive. Among other concerns is the worry that some medications may wind up being abused as a result, leading to a problem similar to the current opioid epidemic.

Regardless of communication styles, the most basic fact at hand in these matters is that workers have been injured on the job and are in need of medical care and money to replace their lost wages. In order to find relief, these injured individuals need to be open and honest about their injuries and how it affects their ability to work. When these workers have been accused of misrepresenting their harm, they may want to speak with an experienced attorney, as their workers' compensation benefits may be in jeopardy.

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