Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (“RSD”) is a condition that results in symptoms such as burning pain, swelling, skin discoloration and shininess and sometimes muscle atrophy of the affected area. It is often triggered by an initial injury or nerve damage to the affected area. In a typical case, a person might experience a fracture of a limb, but then long after the bone has healed the person continues to experience severe pain and weakness in that limb. RSD is sometimes referred to a “complex regional pain syndrome”, and it is thought to result from chronic misfiring of nerves in the affected region although the cause remains unknown. In some cases it is thought to have an immunological origin.
Unfortunately, it usually takes a long time to get diagnosed with RSD because by its very nature the symptoms must have lasted for a long time for a diagnosis to be made. For this reason, if you are applying for disability benefits on the basis of RSD you have probably already had a long and grueling haul of trips to doctor after doctor to find out what is wrong. To be properly diagnosed, you should seek treatment with a neurologist and a pain specialist. Because this is a difficult to diagnose condition, it is the opinion of a treating specialist that will win your case.
Of course the loss of use of the affected body part would cause you limitations of function in the work place, but for most people with RSD it is the intense chronic pain that most limits you in your daily life. Chronic pain can prevent a person from being able to work or even be able to perform simple activities of daily living. If you experience pain so severe that you would not even be able to perform simple tasks in a timely manner, you could be eligible for disability benefits. Your treating doctors need to be able to attest to the fact that your pain would cause you severe limitations of function. In order for your doctors to be able to say that, you need to tell them how your are limited in your daily life. It is also important that you are compliant with recommended treatment
Chronic pain often goes together with depression. I do not think I have ever spoken to a person with RSD who is not depressed. Chronic pain is depressing. Because your depression is also affecting your ability to concentrate, it is ideal if you can also get treatment with a mental health care provider. A mental health care provider might be able to help you cope with your chronic pain but is also a valuable resource for your disability case as someone has observed your difficulties with attention and concentration.