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Working as a crewman aboard a ship, tug, barge or fishing vessel, constantly exposes crewman to the risk of injuries to their hands, feet, arms and legs. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a frequent complication of those hand, feet, arm, and leg injuries that requires early diagnosis and treatment to maximize recovery. There is no prevention for CRPS and early diagnosis and treatment is key to slowing the progression of what may develop into a chronic pain that renders a maritime worker disabled.

CRPS is a chronic pain condition. It is a neurological disorder that affects the central and peripheral nervous systems. Statics show that CRPS may develop in 1 to15 percent of injuries to the peripheral nerves and in 10 to 30 percent of injuries involving fractures. Although the exact physiological mechanism of CRPS is still under investigation, CRPS is clearly related to trauma. Even a minor injury can trigger Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

CRPS, which is also referred to as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), can be severely disabling, causing constant intense burning pain in one or more extremities. Pain and swelling in the affected limb may spread. CRPS victims have cold sensitivity and develop stiff muscles and joints that may result in contractions and muscle wasting. In the late stages of CRPS, depression and mood changes are frequently present, bone scans may show diffuse demineralization of the bones and osteoporosis in the affected hand, foot, arm, or leg.

Treatments for CRPS include injections and nerve blocks that numb the affected nerves or pain fibers. Internal pain pumps may be prescribed that deliver medications directly into the spinal cord. Spinal cord simulators may also be utilized along with bio feed back as part of the patient’s therapy. In severe and chronic cases, surgery sympathectomy may be performed to attempt to cut the nerves to the affected area.

Early medical literature suggested that patients with CRPS had a predisposing personality factor. However, current medical literature disproves that CRPS requires a preexisting personality disorder, and instead supports that the severity of pain and disability associated with CRPS can lead to depression and anxiety disorders.

Injured seamen and fishermen who have suffered injuries to their hands, feet, arms or legs should be carefully watched for potential signs of development of CRPS. If following a traumatic injury, you develop symptoms of constant burning pain in an arm, leg, hand or foot, contact your doctor for follow up and carefully explain your symptoms. CRPS can develop as a complication of surgery for broken bones and is a risk factor of carpel tunnel releases.

The maritime injury lawyers at Beard Stacey & Jacobsen have handled Jones Act injury claims for injured seaman suffering from CRPS. Injuries involving CRPS frequently leave an injured fisherman or seaman unable to return to their prior employment. Getting seaman expert medical care for CRPS injuries is vital. Pain clinic treatment is frequently needed and the seaman’s employer in almost all cases is obligated to pay for all the injured seaman’s reasonable and necessary medical bills. If the underlying injury that caused the CRPS to develop was the result of negligence or unseaworthiness, the seaman may be entitled to damages for past and future pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, lost wages, lost wage earning capacity, future medical expenses and more. If you have questions about your rights compensation for a maritime injury involving CRPS contact Beard Stacey & Jacobsen for a free initial consultation.

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