You just lifted something you have lifted a thousand times over, but this time it’s different. You feel a twinge in your back. (“Twinge”, what a strange word to describe pain. In my mind, a twinge is a feeling that is slightly uncomfortable, sometimes electric, or like a rubber band spring. Instead, they should call it “AHHHHHHH!”). You rotate your back, stretch it a bit like you have learned to do when your back gets tired, and attempt getting back to work, but your back just isn’t what it used to be.
So, you do what everyone does. You finish your shift, go home and ice your back while taking Ibuprofen or some other form of self-medication. In the morning, your back is sorer and you are worse off. After trying to make it through the next shift, you realize you can’t do it. You tell your foreman and go to the ER/Urgent Care office.
You have found yourself with one of the hardest industrial injuries to get doctors and worse, claim managers to understand – soft tissue injuries. A soft tissue injury is an injury of the muscle, tendon, or ligament, which makes the affected area inflamed. X-rays show no broken bones and the injuries are not so severe that an MRI would show rips or tears in the tendons or ligaments. Even though there is no evidence of pain on the MRI or X-ray, it is still stopping you from work and has the ability to floor you when you catch it just right.
So how do you inform the doctor about your pain in an engaging way so that more action will be taken than you receiving a prescription for pain pills and an anti-inflammatory?
One example I hear and read often is “my whole back is killing me” or “it’s my low back, doc, it just hurts.” Those statements are correct and would be perfect to say if you were at a barbeque, standing with a beer in one hand explaining to your buddy why you can’t play bocce ball every weekend in the summer like you have in the past. Unfortunately, the doctor’s office is not a barbecue, you have no beer, and the pain still exists. During a visit, you will only have three to five minutes with a doctor to describe your injury and pain. The doctor may already be distracted that she/he is behind schedule and be hoping to make up lost time on you by finding a “quick-fix.”
Being generic will allow the doctor to pigeonhole your injury into the first diagnosis he/she can think of and be able to move on to the next patient without much work or dictation. SO BE SPECIFIC!
Have a two to three sentence explanation of the injury ready-to-go. Follow that with two to three sentences about what motions, actions, or job requirements make this injury worse. DO NOT ASK TO BE TAKEN OFF WORK. Your doctor should ask a follow-up question from the information you provided. Finally, you need to be able to point to where the painful areas are and describe the type of pain you feel there. This forces the doctor to engage you and your case. The doctor will see your calluses, your scars from work, and realize you are a human being.
Another benefit of having a well-thought-out plan for informing your doctor of the specific pain you are experiencing is that the doctor will document it. Instead of your injury being “lower back pain”, it will be documented as “pain up to the ribcage portion of the back and down through the right butt cheek,” for example.
This should help ensure you have the best possible outcome in your claim.
If you would like to discuss your claim, free of charge, please call our office and we will set up a time to meet.
Photo by Joyce McCown Unsplash