Rule 17, exhibit 9

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Chronic Pain Disorder

Medical Treatment Guidelines

Revised: December 27, 2011

Effective: February 14, 2012

Adopted: January 8, 1998

Effective: March 15, 1998

Revised: May 27, 2003

Effective: July 30, 2003

Revised: September 29, 2005

Effective: January 1, 2006

Revised: April 26, 2007

Effective: July 1, 2007

Presented by:

State of Colorado
Department of Labor and Employment











c. Medical Management History: 17


a. Formal Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation Programs:


b. Informal Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation Program: 68

c. Opioid/Chemical Treatment Programs:




***For ease of reference, we have included generic names as well as major trade names.   Trade names were noted as identified by the national center for biotechnology information, US. National Library of Medicine, PubMed Health. The Division of Workers’ Compensation is not endorsing any specific products, nor brand over generic equivalent


Division of Workers’ Compensation

CCR 1101-3




This document has been prepared by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Division of Workers’ Compensation (Division) and should be interpreted within the context of guidelines for physicians/providers treating individuals qualifying under Colorado’s Workers’ Compensation Act as injured workers with chronic pain.

Although the primary purpose of this document is advisory and educational, these guidelines are enforceable under the Workers’ Compensation Rules of Procedure, 7 CCR 1101-3. The Division recognizes that acceptable medical practice may include deviations from these guidelines, as individual cases dictate. Therefore, these guidelines are not relevant as evidence of a provider’s legal standard of professional care.

To properly utilize this document, the reader should not skip nor overlook any sections.


The principles summarized in this section are key to the intended implementation of all Division of Workers’ Compensation guidelines and critical to the reader’s application of the guidelines in this document.

APPLICATION OF THE GUIDELINES The Division provides procedures to implement medical treatment guidelines and to foster communication to resolve disputes among the provider, payer and patient through the Workers’ Compensation Rules of Procedure. In lieu of more costly litigation, parties may wish to seek administrative dispute resolution services through the Division or the office of administrative courts.

EDUCATION of the patient and family, as well as the employer, insurer, policy makers and the community should be the primary emphasis in the treatment of chronic pain and disability. Currently, practitioners often think of education last, after medications, manual therapy, and surgery. Practitioners must develop and implement an effective strategy and skills to educate patients, employers, insurance systems, policy makers, and the community as a whole. An education-based paradigm should always start with inexpensive communication providing reassuring information to the patient. More in-depth education currently exists within a treatment regime employing functional restorative and innovative programs of prevention and rehabilitation. No treatment plan is complete without addressing issues of individual and/or group patient education as a means of facilitating self-management of symptoms and prevention.

TREATMENT PARAMETER DURATION Timeframes for specific interventions commence once treatments have been initiated, not on the date of injury. Obviously, duration will be impacted by patient compliance, as well as availability of services. Clinical judgment may substantiate the need to accelerate or decelerate the timeframes discussed in this document.

ACTIVE INTERVENTIONS emphasizing patient responsibility, such as therapeutic exercise and/or functional treatment, are generally emphasized over passive modalities, especially as treatment progresses. Generally, passive interventions are viewed as a means to facilitate progress in an active rehabilitation program with concomitant attainment of objective functional gains.

ACTIVE THERAPEUTIC EXERCISE PROGRAM Exercise program goals should incorporate patient strength, endurance, flexibility, coordination, and education. This includes functional application in vocational or community settings.

POSITIVE PATIENT RESPONSE Positive results are defined primarily as functional gains that can be objectively measured. Objective functional gains include, but are not limited to: positional tolerances, range-of-motion (ROM), strength, endurance, activities of daily living, ability to function at work, cognition, psychological behavior, and efficiency/velocity measures that can be quantified. Subjective reports of pain and function should be considered and given relative weight when the pain has anatomic and physiologic correlation. Anatomic correlation must be based on objective findings.

RE-EVALUATION OF TREATMENT EVERY 3 TO 4 WEEKS If a given treatment or modality is not producing positive results within 3 to 4 weeks, the treatment should be either modified or discontinued. Reconsideration of diagnosis should also occur in the event of poor response to a seemingly rational intervention.

SURGICAL INTERVENTIONS Surgery should be contemplated within the context of expected functional outcome and not purely for the purpose of pain relief. The concept of “cure” with respect to surgical treatment by itself is generally a misnomer. All operative interventions must be based upon positive correlation of clinical findings, clinical course, and diagnostic tests. A comprehensive assimilation of these factors must lead to a specific diagnosis with positive identification of pathologic conditions.

SIX-MONTH TIME FRAME The prognosis drops precipitously for returning an injured worker to work once he/she has been temporarily totally disabled for more than six months. The emphasis within these guidelines is to move patients along a continuum of care and return to work within a six-month timeframe, whenever possible. It is important to note that timeframes may be less pertinent for injuries that do not involve work-time loss or are not occupationally related.

RETURN-TO-WORK is therapeutic, assuming the work is not likely to aggravate the basic problem or increase long-term pain. The practitioner must provide specific written physical limitations and the patient should never be released to “sedentary” or “light duty.” The following physical limitations should be considered and modified as recommended: lifting, pushing, pulling, crouching, walking, using stairs, overhead work, bending at the waist, awkward and/or sustained postures, tolerance for sitting or standing, hot and cold environments, data entry and other repetitive motion tasks, sustained grip, tool usage and vibration factors. Even if there is residual chronic pain, return-to-work is not necessarily contraindicated.

The practitioner should understand all of the physical demands of the patient’s job position before returning the patient to full duty and should request clarification of the patient’s job duties. Clarification should be obtained from the employer or if necessary, including, but not limited to: a healthcare professional with experience in ergonomics, an occupational health nurse, occupational therapist, vocational rehabilitation specialist, or an industrial hygienist.

DELAYED RECOVERY By definition, patients with chronic pain will fit into the category of delayed recovery. All of these patients should have a psychological or psychiatric evaluation, if not previously provided as well as interdisciplinary rehabilitation or vocational goal setting. It is essential to address all barriers to recovery which might include issues related to psychosocial, personality, employment, litigation, and compensation, The Division recognizes that 3 to 10% of all industrially injured patients will not recover within the timelines outlined in this document despite optimal care. Such individuals may require treatments beyond the limits discussed within this document, but such treatment will require clear documentation by the authorized treating practitioner focusing on objective functional gains afforded by further treatment and impact upon prognosis.

GUIDELINE RECOMMENDATIONS AND INCLUSION OF MEDICAL EVIDENCE Guidelines are recommendations based on available evidence and/or consensus recommendations. When possible, guideline recommendations will note the level of evidence supporting the treatment recommendation. When interpreting medical evidence statements in the guideline, the following apply:

Consensus means the opinion of experienced professionals based on general medical principles. Consensus recommendations are designated in the guideline as “generally well accepted,” “generally accepted,” “acceptable,” or “well-established.”

“Some” means the recommendation considered at least one adequate scientific study, which reported that a treatment was effective.

“Good” means the recommendation considered the availability of multiple adequate scientific studies or at least one relevant high-quality scientific study, which reported that a treatment was effective.

“Strong” means the recommendation considered the availability of multiple relevant and high quality scientific studies, which arrived at similar conclusions about the effectiveness of a treatment.

All recommendations in the guideline are considered to represent reasonable care in appropriately selected cases, regardless of the level of evidence attached to it. Those procedures considered inappropriate, unreasonable, or unnecessary are designated in the guideline as “not recommended.”

TREATMENT OF PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS The conditions that preexisted the work injury/disease will need to be managed under two circumstances: (a) A pre-existing condition exacerbated by a work injury/disease should be treated until the patient has returned to their objectively verified prior level of functioning or MMI; and (b) A pre-existing condition not directly caused by a work injury/disease but which may prevent recovery from that injury should be treated until its objectively verified negative impact has been controlled. The focus of treatment should remain on the work injury/disease.

The remainder of this document should be interpreted within the parameters of these guideline principles that may lead to more optimal medical and functional outcomes for injured workers.


The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience with actual or potential tissue damage." Pain is a complex experience embracing physical, mental, social, and behavioral processes that often compromises the quality of life of many individuals. Pain is an unpleasant subjective perception usually in the context of tissue damage.

Pain is subjective and cannot be measured or indicated objectively. Pain evokes negative emotional reactions such as fear, anxiety, anger, and depression. People usually regard pain as an indicator of physical harm, despite the fact that pain can exist without tissue damage and tissue damage can exist without pain. Many people report pain in the absence of tissue damage or any likely pathophysiologic cause. There is no way to distinguish their experience from that due to actual tissue damage. If they regard their experience as pain and they report it the same way as pain caused by tissue damage, it should be accepted as pain.

Pain can generally be classified as:

  • Nociceptive which includes pain from visceral origins or damage to other tissues. Myofascial pain is a nociceptive type of pain characterized by myofascial trigger points limited to a specific muscle or muscles.

  • Neuropathic including that originating from brain, peripheral nerves or both; and

  • Psychogenic that originates in mood, characterological, social, or psychophysiological processes.

Recent advances in the neurosciences reveal additional mechanisms involved in chronic pain. In the past, pain was seen as a sensation arising from the stimulation of pain receptors by damaged tissue, initiating a sequence of nerve signals ending in the brain and there recognized as pain. A consequence of this model was that ongoing pain following resolution of tissue damage was seen as less physiological and more psychological than acute pain with identifiable tissue injury. Current research indicates that chronic pain involves additional mechanisms that cause: 1) neural remodeling at the level of the spinal cord and higher levels of the central nervous system; 2) changes in membrane responsiveness and connectivity leading to activation of larger pain pathways; and 3) recruitment of distinct neurotransmitters.

Changes in gene function and expression may occur, with lasting functional consequences. These physiologic functional changes cause chronic pain to be experienced in body regions beyond the original injury and to be exacerbated by little or no stimulation. The chronic pain experience clearly represents both psychologic and complex physiologic mechanisms, many of which are just beginning to be understood.

Chronic pain is defined as "pain that persists for at least 30 days beyond the usual course of an acute disease or a reasonable time for an injury to heal or that is associated with a chronic pathological process that causes continuous pain (e.g., reflex sympathetic dystrophy)." The very definition of chronic pain describes a delay or outright failure to increase function and relieve pain associated with some specific illness or accident. Delayed recovery should prompt a clinical review of the case and a psychological evaluation by the health care provider. Referral to a recognized pain specialist for further evaluation is recommended. Consideration may be given to new diagnostic testing or a change in treatment plan.

The term “chronic pain syndrome” has been used and defined in a variety of ways that generally indicate a belief on the part of the health care provider that the patient's pain is inappropriate or out of proportion to existing problems or illness. Use of the term “chronic pain syndrome” should be discontinued because the term ceases to have meaning due to the many different physical and psychosocial issues associated with it. Instead, practitioners should use the nationally accepted terminology indicated in the definition section and/or the psychiatric diagnosis of "pain disorder" and the subtypes according to established standards of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

The IASP offers taxonomy of pain, which underscores the wide variety of pathological conditions associated with chronic pain. This classification system may not address the psychological and psychosocial issues that occur in the perception of pain, suffering, and disability and may require referral to psychiatric or psychological clinicians. These issues should be documented with preference to the diagnostic categories of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association including the subcategories of pain disorder and any other applicable diagnostic categories (i.e., depressive, anxiety, and adjustment disorders). Pain disorder associated with general medical condition may be used for treatment; however, it may not be used to establish impairment therefore, more specific DSM coding of the condition is required when appropriate.

Chronic pain is a phenomenon not specifically relegated to anatomical or physiologic parameters. The prevailing biomedical model (which focuses on identified disease pathology as the sole cause of pain) cannot capture all of the important variables in pain behavior. While diagnostic labels may pinpoint contributory physical and/or psychological factors and lead to specific treatment interventions that are helpful, a large number of patients defy precise taxonomic classification. Furthermore, such diagnostic labeling often overlooks important social contributions to the chronic pain experience. Failure to address these operational parameters of the chronic pain experience may lead to incomplete or faulty treatment plans. The term "pain disorder" is perhaps the most useful term in the medical literature today, in that it captures the multi-factorial nature of the chronic pain experience.

It is recognized that some health care practitioners, by virtue of their experience, additional training, and/or accreditation by pain specialty organizations, have much greater expertise in the area of chronic pain evaluation and treatment than others. Referrals for the treatment of chronic pain should be to such recognized specialists. Chronic pain treatment plans should be monitored and coordinated by physicians with expertise in pain management including specialty training and/or certification.

Most acute and some chronic pain problems are adequately addressed in other Division treatment guidelines, and are generally not within the scope of these guidelines. However, because chronic pain is more often than not multi-factorial, involving more than one pathophysiologic or mental disorder, some overlap with other guidelines is inevitable. These guidelines are meant to apply to any patient who fits the operational definition of chronic pain discussed at the beginning of this section.


    1. AFTER SENSATION Refers to the abnormal persistence of a sensory perception, provoked by a stimulus even though the stimulus has ceased.

ALLODYNIA Pain due to a non-noxious stimulus that does not normally provoke pain.

Mechanical Allodynia – Refers to the abnormal perception of pain from usually non-painful mechanical stimulation.

Static Mechanical Allodynia – Refers to pain obtained by applying a single stimulus such as light pressure to a defined area.

Dynamic Mechanical Allodynia – Obtained by moving the stimulus such as a brush or cotton tip across the abnormal hypersensitive area.

Thermal Allodynia – Refers to the abnormal sensation of pain from usually non-painful thermal stimulation such as cold or warmth.

ANALGESIA Absence of pain in response to stimulation that would normally be painful.

BIOPSYCHOSOCIAL A term that reflects the multiple facets of any clinical situation; namely, the biological, psychological, and social situation of the patient.

CENTRAL PAIN Pain initiated or caused by a primary lesion or dysfunction in the central nervous system.

CENTRAL SENSITIZATION The experience of pain evoked by the excitation of non-nociceptive neurons or of nerve fibers that normally relay non-painful sensations to the spinal cord. This results when non-nociceptive afferent neurons act on a sensitized central nervous system (CNS). Experimental data suggest that pathways normally carrying pain signals themselves become overstimulated and/or fail to respond to inhibitory influences causing increased pain. An example is ‘wind-up’ which occurs when cells in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord increase their rate of action potential discharge in response to repeated stimulation by nociceptors (Woolf CJ, 2006; Zhou Y 2008) .

DYSESTHESIA An abnormal sensation described by the patient as unpleasant. As with paresthesia, dysesthesia may be spontaneous or evoked by maneuvers on physical examination.

HYPERALGESIA Refers to an exaggerated pain response from a usually painful stimulation.

HYPERESTHESIA (POSITIVE SENSORY PHENOMENA) Includes allodynia, hyperalgesia, and hyperpathia. Elicited by light touch, pin prick, cold, warm, vibration, joint position sensation or two-point discrimination, which is perceived as increased or more.

HYPERPATHIA a condition of altered perception such that stimuli which would normally be innocuous, if repeated or prolonged, result in severe explosive persistent pain.

HYPOALGESIA Diminished pain perception in response to a normally painful stimulus.

HYPOESTHESIA (NEGATIVE SENSORY PHENOMENA) (also hypesthesia), diminished sensitivity to stimulation

MALINGERING Intentional feigning of illness or disability in order to achieve external incentives such as recreational drugs or money.

MYOFASCIAL PAIN A regional pain characterized by tender points in taut bands of muscle that produce pain in a characteristic reference zone.

MYOFASCIAL TRIGGER POINT A physical sign in a muscle which includes a) exquisite tenderness in a taut muscle band; and b) referred pain elicited by mechanical stimulation of the trigger point. The following findings may be associated with myofascial trigger points: 1) Local twitch or contraction of the taut band when the trigger point is mechanically stimulated; 2) Reproduction of the patient’s spontaneous pain pattern when the trigger point is mechanically stimulated; 3) Weakness without muscle atrophy; 4) Restricted range of motion of the affected muscle; and 5) Autonomic dysfunction associated with the trigger point such as changes in skin or limb temperature.

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