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Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome

Osterhout Berger Disability Law > Disabling Conditions > Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSDS) is a complex diagnosis for doctors to make, and is a condition we take very seriously. Patients with RSDS often don’t realize it until the needed clinical findings are completed; they just know they are in a lot of pain. According to the RSDS Association of America, RSDS is a chronic neurological syndrome, characterized by severe and chronic pain. It is believed to be caused by, in addition to other factors, a failure of the nervous system to regulate blood pressure, heart rate, or tightening blood vessels.

Symptoms usually begin with burning pain in one’s hand(s), finger(s), or shoulder(s), but in some cases it became centralized in either both, or just one leg, knee, or hip. RSDS has been known to be misdiagnosed, in which case, the skin atop the affected area may become swollen and tender, and develop heightened sensitivity to extreme temperatures. According to WebMD, these misdiagnoses are quite frequent. The cause of RSDS is not known, as stated earlier, but is believed to be related to nerve damage, trauma, surgery, infection, or radiation therapy.

Doctors diagnose RSDS when a patient exhibits a form of pain that isn’t relative to the event that caused it, as well as a sudden immobilization. With this information, doctors can then perform the needed clinical tests to officially determine their condition. Again, this is a complicated syndrome to identify, but although it may lie hidden, rest assured that your doctor will be able to figure out what is wrong.

Of course, many doctors will prescribe pain medication and/or refer a patient to a pain clinic for this condition. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients tremendously. This is mainly because this condition can cause emotional distress, which worsens the RSDS significantly. The therapy offered helps the patient get by without drugs for the pain. This pain is absolutely physical, not “mental”, but psychological help can increase a patient’s recovery and ability to cope with the limitations this condition unfortunately brings.

Our approach is that even if we are presenting an RSDS disability claim to a skeptical judge (and maybe evenespecially when we are), our job is to document the impairments as thoroughly as possible. Obviously, we hope that this will convince even the most skeptical judge. If we cannot, our chances of success on appeal are much better when the medical condition has been thoroughly presented. Regardless of the opinions of a few judges, the fact is that appeals courts have clearly acknowledged that this is a valid medical condition and will require the judge to reconsider his decision if the medical evidence is not dealt with in a fair and evenhanded manner.

It is absolutely crucial that you describe thoroughly any symptoms you have in addition to your pain. You will, for instance be asked to describe your major symptoms on various forms sent to you by Social Security (the most common being the “pain questionnaire” in the “daily activities questionnaire”), and at your hearing before the ALJ you’ll be asked a number of questions designed to elicit testimony concerning all of your severe medical symptoms. It may be that you have grown used to symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, or depression and think of them, in a way, as your “normal” condition.

Social Security defines “work” as an eight hour a day, five-day week endeavor. As in most Social Security Disability claims, the judge’s decision really boils down to whether or not he or she believes that you can perform the basic functions of work (concentrating, interacting appropriately with people encountered in the workplace, etc.). The fact that a claimant can only perform these basic functions sporadically, but not consistently, is the basis for the large majority of successful Social Security Disability claims.

We have represented many people with this disorder; what we have found is that clients who are truly unable to work and who participate in their care by following their doctors’ orders, and who are truly trying to get better but just cannot, are usually successful in their claim for Social Security disability benefits.

We hope this article has helped you in more ways than one. Although it’s a lot of information to process, and we certainly understand your concerns, we aim to only assist you in these hard times you are likely facing. You are more than welcome to call our office if you have any other inquiries, or concerns you’d like to discuss. Again, we want you to know that while having serious medical conditions may certainly be tough, we believe our clients are tougher. When we take a case it’s because we believe in you, and we will fight for you.