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Explaining chronic pain following soft tissue injury

Legal practitioners should be aware of the relationships between trauma, pain, and the mind in injuries such as whiplash or low back strain, writes Chris Worsfold

16 February 2016

At a recent conference with counsel regarding a case of ongoing chronic pain of four years duration arising from an allegedly heavy-handed physiotherapy treatment, counsel posited, 'The defence are, of course, going to assert that a soft tissue injury normally heals within three months, so why does the claimant still suffer from pain?'

Among the issues that arise during medico-legal work, ongoing chronic pain following soft tissue injury must surely be one of the most controversial. While this is an issue that the majority of clinicians will readily accept in their day-to-day work (e.g. that 20 per cent of ankle sprains or whiplash injuries will experience long-term problems with pain and disability), it can, of course, present considerable problems when it comes to explaining in a medico-legal context precisely how and why a claimant continues to report ongoing pain and disability following a soft tissue strain.

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