Which 1-10 Pain Levels Should I Tell my Doctor for my Work Injury?

September 26, 2023

Which 1-10 Pain Levels Should I Tell my Doctor for my Work Injury?

Injured worker - pain levels are important for a doctor to know

Pain levels can vary day by day, but knowing how to communicate this with your doctor, attorneys, or workers’ comp claim adjuster is important.

If you’ve been to a hospital, odds are you’ve seen a visual chart to rank pain levels

The scale often starts with a smiley face for one, meaning there is little or no pain, to a frown for ten, meaning the pain is unbearable.  This can help doctors get an idea of how you are physically feeling.

It’s still common for a treating physician to ask you to rate your pain levels, even if a visual chart isn’t used.

If you suffered a work-related injury and have either tried to or are currently receiving workers’ compensation benefits, the number you choose for your pain levels is important. It can be a major deciding factor as to whether or not your claim is denied, or you are told to return to work.

The pain levels may be used to assist with prescribing medications, or even as medical evidence for your claim. If an insurance company receives information stating your pain levels are too low, your benefits may be reduced or possibly rejected.

Remember, insurance companies are generally not on your side. Part of their job is to get the lowest possible pay out to those who file a claim. If they can deny benefits, it’s even better. 

If you rate your pain levels low, an insurance company can use it as documented proof that your injury is not as serious, or that it has healed. 

Woman in pain - pain levels can leave victims defenseless

We often hear from injured workers who rate their pain level as low as three or four on the scale of 1-10. A number this low signals to the insurance company that your injuries are not as painful.

This isn’t to say that you should falsify your pain levels.

In fact, persistently rating your pain levels as high as ten can almost come off as too elevated.  A pain level around seven or eight is a rating usually high enough to warrant being taken as a serious injury claim.

Here are a few tips for communicating with your treating physician about your pain levels – 

  • Don’t make up numbers – Be honest with yourself. If you truly are in serious pain, rate the number higher. Patients will oftentimes say numbers lower than how they truly feel, sometimes in fear of retaliation or losing their job.
  • Consistency is important – If your pain levels constantly fluctuate, insurance companies may use it as a way to indicate a readiness for return to work. Jumping from a 3 on Monday to a 10 on Wednesday then back to a 2 on Thursday is inconsistent, and while lying about your levels isn’t right, that much of a discrepancy can be perceived as off-putting.
  • Be an advocate for yourself – You know best how you are feeling or recovering from your injury.  Be a champion for yourself, and don’t agree to stipulations if you aren’t ready.
  • Get help from a workers’ compensation lawyer – If you’re not sure how to answer questions about pain levels from your physician, reaching out to an LA workers’ compensation attorney can be a great benefit to helping you on your journey to health. 

The Los Angeles workers’ comp attorneys at C&B Law Group are familiar with tactics pulled by insurance companies and workers’ comp adjusters. We will guide and prepare you for any phone calls with them or your doctor. 

A work injury is already hard enough. Not being properly compensated because of a situation that can possibly be prevented can only make matters worse. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with questions about your pain levels and how to communicate that information to doctors, reach out to the Burbank lawyers at C&B Law Group about a free consultation.

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