Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

A person may apply for social security Disability benefits based on the physical impairment of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) (sometimes CRPS is referred as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or RDS).  Although CRPS is not covered under any Social Security listed impairment, we have represented many clients who have received benefits due to CRPS.  The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has defined CRPS as “a chronic pain condition that is believed to be the result of dysfunction in the central or peripheral nervous systems.”

CRPS most often affects one of the arms, legs, hands, or feet.  Often the pain spreads to include the entire arm or leg.  CRPS can be precipitated by injury or surgery.  At times, there can be no known reason for the onset of CRPS.  At this point, the etiological origin is essentially unknown.  CRPS can be diagnosed when one’s pain is out of proportion to the severity of the documented clinical or objective findings.  However, usually more is needed for a valid diagnosis of CRPS for Social Security purposes.  Other clinically documented symptoms include:  Swelling; osteoporosis; involuntary movements of the affected region of the initial injury; changes in skin color, skin temperature, sweating; and abnormal hair or nail growth.

These signs of CRPS are known to come and go.  It is common for someone to have severe symptoms of CRPS for a few months and then a reduction of symptoms for a few months.  Just because the signs are reduced or gone for a period of time does not mean that the person does not still suffer from CRPS.  However, it is important to maintain continual treatment with a medical provider.  When treatment records document persistent limiting pain in an area where one or more of these abnormal symptoms have been documented, it can reasonably be determined that CRPS is present.

One who suffers from CRPS may have significant limitations that could potentially result in receiving Social Security Disability on that basis.  Although there is no listing for CRPS, the Social Security Administration has issues a ruling on CRPS that provides guidance.  Social Security Ruling 03-2p notes that CRPS is a chronic pain syndrome most often resulting from trauma to a single extremity.  It can also result from diseases, surgery, or injury affecting other parts of the body.  Even a minor injury can trigger CRPS.  The precipitating injury may be so minor that the individual does not even recall sustaining an injury.  Other potential precipitants suggested by the medical literature include, but are not limited to, surgical procedures, drug exposure, stroke with hemiplegia, and cervical spondylosis.

Although some of this is repetitive to what was mentioned earlier, it is important to note that the Social Security Administration has made a ruling regarding CRPS and subjective complaints along with objective findings should be taken very seriously with regards to a disability claim.

Once CRPS has been established, the Social Security Administration will next determine what one’s residual functional capacity is relating to their ability to work.  In determining the RFC, the evaluator should consider all of the symptoms in deciding how they may affect the claimant’s ability to function.  Careful consideration should be given to the effects of pain and its treatment on the claimant’s capacity to do sustained work-related physical and mental activities in a competitive work setting on a regular and continuing basis.

In determining the RFC the most important evidence will be the treatment notes from the claimant’s treating physician.  However, many times treatment notes are written only document the signs and symptoms one is suffering from.  They are not usually written with regard to one’s workability or ability to handle work related functions.  At Hoglund Law Offices, we have devised RFC forms specifically formatted for Social Security purposes for a doctor to fill out.  These RFC forms, filled out with the support of a health professional, can be instrumental in winning a claim.  Even if an RFC form is not filled out, an experienced attorney can use their knowledge of the specific requirements needed to win a claim and apply it to doctors’ notes and other evidence to prove a person should be eligible for Social Security Disability.

Many people who suffer from RSDS suffer from an inability to functionally use an arm or leg.  This can result in serious deficits in trying to obtain work.  Furthermore, the pain somebody can have while suffering from RSDS can affect their ability to concentrate as well as persist enough to perform the job in a satisfactory manner.  If this is true for you or somebody you know, Social Security Disability is an option.

Most Social Security disability cases are extremely complex; this is usually true regarding CRPS.  An experienced Social Security Attorney can help by offering the proper medical and legal advice, working with the Social Security Administration to ensure they understand how CRPS is affecting the claimant’s workability, and advancing winning legal arguments to help that person obtain Disability Benefits.  Call Hoglund, Chwialkowski, and Mrozik today for a free consultation.