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A broken bone from a car crash could result in serious disability

When you get into a major collision in a motor vehicle, whether it's with another passenger vehicle or a commercial truck, you may feel lucky if your injuries only amount to broken bones. Common injuries from these sorts of events can include traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries that can change your level of mobility, your personality and your life. In comparison, a broken bone probably seems like a minor issue that is readily treatable.

For most people who suffer broken bones, that is true. After receiving trauma care and having the bone set, patients typically heal over time. Once the cast is removed, physical therapy can help improve strength and range of motion to levels similar to those before the fracture. For some people, however, broken bones can end up causing a serious, permanent condition that can leave them in pain and unable to work.

How do broken bones develop into permanent disabilities?

The vast majority of broken bones heal naturally and result in few permanent ill effects. In rare cases, however, damage to the nerves in the area around the trauma can have a lasting impact. Sometimes, the pain associated with a broken bone or similar trauma will not reduce as the tissues heal. Instead, they will persist or even get worse over time. This can be a sign of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which doctors used to call RSD Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).

CRPS is a progressive condition that impacts your autonomic nervous system. It causes your body to misinterpret sensation as intense pain, often well beyond what was reasonable for the original injury. In roughly 70 percent of cases, the condition may spread to other areas of the body over time. Medical professionals rate CRPS as one of the most painful conditions a person can experience.

What are the symptoms of CRPS?

If you find yourself feeling worse when you should be feeling better in the wake of a traumatic injury, that is a red flag that your doctor needs to know about as soon as possible. The pain associated with CRPS varies, but many people describe it as a deep, chronic, burning or tingling pain. A person with CRPS may feel pain due to light stimulation, such as the brush of clothing against the impacted area or even the water coming down in a shower.

Other symptoms include discoloration and swelling of the afflicted area. The skin, hair and nails can also change in color or texture. For some patients, the surface temperature of the broken limb may differ noticeably from the opposite, unaffected limb. There can also be excessive sweating. Muscle spasms, loss of strength, reduced range of motion and similar atrophy of the affected area are common.

CRPS is a serious medical condition that may require expensive ongoing treatment just to manage symptoms. There is currently no simple cure. Those who develop CRPS as the result of an accident caused by another driver should consider their options for compensation due the injury and related losses, such as lost wages due to an inability to continue working.

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