TENS TIPS Newsletter
A Publication of CPR Medical

Committed to Cost Containment for the Insurance Industry

Is RSD the Next Costly "New Wave" Workplace Disease?


In many ways, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) is the worst of both worlds: itís a debilitating disease thatís difficult to diagnose and treat but easy to fake, allowing many employees to approximate the symptoms. Up to 80% of patients diagnosed with RSD donít have the disease, says Dr. Howard Sandler, president of Sandler Occupational Medicine Associates, Melville, NY.

A nerve disease that usually happens after a minor injury or operation to a limb, RSD symptoms include pain inappropriate to the injury, swollenness, burning and purplish skin. In a study of 829 patients, 93% experienced pain, 91% developed discoloration of the skin, and 88% had decreased range of motion. Prevalence ranges from .01% to several percent of all injured workers. "Less than 1% of workers comp patients have RSD. Some of the numbers we are seeing are inflated." Says Dr. Steve Dawkins, with Atlanta based Occupational Health International. "The diagnosis for RSD has been around for a long time, but now people are using it out of frustration when a hand or wrist injury does not improve," he says. "Itís a misuse of the diagnosis."




A new disease climbing the workers' compensation claims chart, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, is a trauma-based, difficult-to-diagnose, and costly condition.

RSD is especially dangerous because "itís difficult to diagnose and the criteria are not as set as in other diseases," Sandler says. Employees can fake the wide-ranging symptoms. Treatment can include exercise as well as heat, contrast baths, and nerve stimulation. Anesthetics often are administered for the pain, which can be so severe patients ask for an amputation.

RSD Lends itself to medical case management. Once a diagnosis is made, itís important that treatment be fast and effective: If the condition is not identified and treated within six months, the chances of a total cure become slim, Sandler says. The total cure rate is only 33% and that drops if the disease isnít diagnosed early. Treatment can be lengthy and it can take months to restore good functional use of the extremity.



Sandler pointed out that the symptoms are easy to fake and can cost employers a great deal of money, while actual cases are often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed until the possibility of a cure is greatly reduced.

(Reprinted from Crawford & Company's Disability Manager Insights.)

In many cases, Electromedical devices, especially High Volt Galvanic Stimulators are prescribed to aid in the reduction of pain and swelling related to RSD. Should you need to supply a patient with any such device, call CPR Medical at 1-800-235-5675 for a cost comparison.


CPR Medical, specializing in:


TENS Units


Microcurrent (MENS)


Muscle Stimulators


Galvanic Stimulators


Interferential Stimulators


Electrodes and
Related Supplies

TENS tips is dedicated to updating you on product, pricing, and policy practices in the electromedical field.  We appreciate your interest in reading this publication.  Should you have any questions or suggestions, we welcome your input.


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