Rule 17, exhibit 9 Chronic Pain Disorder Medical Treatment Guidelines Revised: December 27, 2011 Effective: February 14, 2012



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Prolotherapy: also known as sclerotherapy consists of a series of injections of hypertonic dextrose, with or without glycerine and/or phenol, into the ligamentous structures of the low back and other joints (e.g. it has been used for “stabilization” of ankles, SI joints, etc. Its proponents claim that the inflammatory response to the injections will recruit cytokine growth factors involved in the proliferation of connective tissue, stabilizing the ligaments of the low back or treated joints when these structures have been damaged by mechanical insults.

There are conflicting studies concerning the effectiveness of prolotherapy in the low back. Lasting functional improvement has not been shown. The injections are invasive, may be painful to the patient, and are not generally accepted or widely used. Therefore, the use of prolotherapy for low back or other chronic joint pain is not recommended.

Epiduroscopy and Epidural Lysis of Adhesions: is an investigational treatment of low back pain. It involves the introduction of a fiberoptic endoscope into the epidural space via the sacral hiatus. With cephalad advancement of the endoscope under direct visualization, the epidural space is irrigated with saline. Adhesiolysis may be done mechanically with a fiberoptic endoscope. The saline irrigation is performed with or without epiduroscopy and is intended to distend the epidural space in order to obtain an adequate visual field. It is designed to produce lysis of adhesions, which are conjectured to produce symptoms due to traction on painful nerve roots. Saline irrigation is associated with risks of elevated pressures which may impede blood flow and venous return, possibly causing ischemia of the cauda equina and retinal hemorrhage.

Other complications associated with instrumented lysis include catheter shearing, need for catheter surgical removal, infection (including meningitis), hematoma, and possible severe hemodynamic instability during application. Although epidural adhesions have been postulated to cause chronic low back pain, studies have failed to find a significant correlation between the level of fibrosis and pain or difficulty functioning. Studies of epidural lysis demonstrate no transient pain relief from the procedure. Given the low likelihood of a positive response, the additional costs and time requirement, and the possible complications from the procedure, epidural injection, or mechanical lysis, is not recommended.

Epiduroscopy- directed steroid injections are also not recommended as there is no evidence to support an advantage for using an epiduroscope with steroid injections.

Botulinum Toxin Injections:



Description – Used to temporarily weaken or paralyze muscles. May reduce muscle pain in conditions associated with spasticity, dystonia, or other types of painful muscle spasm. Neutralizing antibodies develop in at least 4% of patients treated with botulinum toxin type A, rendering it ineffective. Several antigenic types of botulinum toxin have been described. Botulinum toxin type B, first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001, is similar pharmacologically to botulinum toxin type A. It appears to be effective in patients who have become resistant to the type A toxin. The immune responses to botulinum toxins type A and B are not cross-reactive, allowing type B toxin to be used when type A action is blocked by antibody. Experimental work with healthy human volunteers suggests that muscle paralysis from type B toxin is not as complete or as long lasting as that resulting from type A. The duration of treatment effect of botulinum toxin type B for cervical dystonia has been estimated to be 12 to 16 weeks. EMG needle guidance may permit more precise delivery of botulinum toxin to the target area.

There is strong evidence that botulinum toxin A has objective and asymptomatic benefits over placebo for cervical dystonia (Costa, [Cochrane], 2005).

There is some evidence to support injections for electromyographically proven piriformis syndrome (Fishman, 2002). Prior to consideration of botulimum toxin injection for piriformis syndrome, patients should have had marked (80% or better) but temporary improvement with three separate trigger point injections. To be a candidate for botulinum toxin injection for piriformis syndrome, patients should have had symptoms return to baseline or near baseline despite an appropriate stretching program after trigger point injections. Botulinum toxin injections of piriformis should be performed by a physician experienced in this procedure and utilize either ultrasound, fluoroscopy, or EMG needle guidance. Botulinum toxin should be followed by limb strengthening and reactivation.

Indications – For conditions which produce chronic spasticity, dystonia, or piriformis syndrome. There should be evidence of limited range-of-motion prior to the injection. Refer to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Medical Treatment Guidelines for indications regarding headache.

There is insufficient evidence to support its use other myofascial trigger points for longer-term pain relief and it is likely to cause muscle weakness or atrophy if used repeatedly (Ferrante, 2005; Gobel, 2006; Porta, 2000). Examples of such consequences include subacromial impingement, as the stabilizers of the shoulder are weakened by repeated injections of trigger points in the upper trapezii. Therefore it is not recommended for use for other myofascial trigger points (Abbott 2007).

Complications – There is good evidence that cervical botulinum toxin A injections cause transient dysphagia and neck weakness. Allergic reaction to medications, dry mouth and vocal hoarseness may also occur Costa J [Cochrane] 2005. Rare systemic effects include flu-like syndrome, and weakening of distant muscle. There is an increased risk of systemic effects in patients with motor neuropathy or disorders of the neuromuscular junction.



  • Time to Produce Effect: 24 to 72 hours post injection with peak effect by 4 to 6 weeks.

  • Frequency: No less than 3 months between re-administration. Patients should be reassessed after each injection session for an 80% improvement in pain (as measured by accepted pain scales) and evidence of functional improvement for 3 months. A positive result would include a return to base line function, return to increased work duties, and measurable improvement in physical activity goals including return to baseline after an exacerbation.

  • Optimum Duration: 3 to 4 months.

  • Maximum Duration: Currently unknown. Repeat injections should be based upon functional improvement and therefore used sparingly in order to avoid development of antibodies that might render future injections ineffective. In most cases, not more than four injections are appropriate due accompanying muscle atrophy.

INTERDISCIPLINARY REHABILITATION PROGRAMS are the gold standard of treatment for individuals with chronic pain who have not responded to less intensive modes of treatment. In addition, there are current studies to support the use of pain programs. There is good evidence that interdisciplinary programs which include screening for psychological issues, identification of fear-avoidance beliefs and treatment barriers, and establishment of individual functional and work goals, will improve function and decrease disability (Lambeek, L, 2010; Dobscha, 2009). These programs should assess the impact of pain and suffering on the patient’s medical, physical, psychological, social, and/or vocational functioning. In general, interdisciplinary programs evaluate and treat multiple and sometimes irreversible conditions, including but not limited to painful musculoskeletal, neurological, and other chronic painful disorders and psychological issues, drug dependence, abuse or addiction high levels of stress and anxiety, failed surgery; and pre-existing or latent psychopathology. The number of professions involved in the team in a chronic pain program may vary due to the complexity of the needs of the person served. The Division recommends consideration of referral to an interdisciplinary program within 6 months post-injury in patients with delayed recovery unless successful surgical interventions or other medical and/or psychological treatments complications intervene.

Chronic pain patients need to be treated as outpatients within a continuum of treatment intensity. Outpatient chronic pain programs are available with services provided by a coordinated interdisciplinary team within the same facility (formal) or as coordinated among practices by the authorized treating physician (informal). Formal programs are able to provide coordinated, high intensity level of services and are recommended for most chronic pain patients who have received multiple therapies during acute management.



Patients with addiction problems or high dose opioid or other drugs of abuse use may require inpatient and/or outpatient chemical dependency treatment programs before or in conjunction with other interdisciplinary rehabilitation. Guidelines from the American Society of Addiction Medicine are available and may be consulted relating to the intensity of services required for different classes of patients in order to achieve successful treatment.

Informal interdisciplinary pain programs may be considered for patients who are currently employed, those who cannot attend all day programs, those with language barriers, or those living in areas not offering formal programs. Before treatment has been initiated, the patient, physician, and insurer should agree on treatment approach, methods, and goals. Generally the type of outpatient program needed will depend on the degree of impact the pain has had on the patient’s medical, physical, psychological, social and/or vocational functioning.

When referring a patient for formal outpatient interdisciplinary pain rehabilitation, an occupational rehabilitation or an opioid treatment program, the Division recommends the program meets the criteria of the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).

Inpatient pain rehabilitation programs are rarely needed but may be necessary for patients with any of the following conditions: (a) High risk for medical instability; (b) Moderate-to-severe impairment of physical/functional status; (c) Moderate-to-severe pain behaviors; (d) Moderate impairment of cognitive and/or emotional status; (e) Dependence on medications from which he or she needs to be withdrawn; and (f) the need for 24-hour supervised nursing.

Whether formal or informal programs, they should be comprised of the following dimensions (CARF 2010-11):

a. Communication: To ensure positive functional outcomes, communication between the patient, insurer and all professionals involved must be coordinated and consistent. Any exchange of information must be provided to all professionals, including the patient. Care decisions should be communicated to all and should include the family or other support system.

b. Documentation: Through documentation by all professionals involved and/or discussions with the patient, it should be clear that functional goals are being actively pursued and measured on a regular basis to determine their achievement or need for modification.

c. Treatment Modalities: Use of modalities may be necessary early in the process to facilitate compliance with and tolerance to therapeutic exercise, physical conditioning, and increasing functional activities. Active treatments should be emphasized over passive treatments. Active treatments should encourage self-coping skills and management of pain, which can be continued independently at home or at work. Treatments that can foster a sense of dependency by the patient on the caregiver should be avoided. Treatment length should be decided based upon observed functional improvement. For a complete list of active and passive therapies, refer to Sections F. 13 and 14, Therapeutic Procedures, Non-Operative. All treatment timeframes may be extended based upon the patient’s positive functional improvement.

d. Therapeutic Exercise Programs: A therapeutic exercise program should be initiated at the start of any treatment rehabilitation. Such programs should emphasize education, independence, and the importance of an on-going exercise regime. There is good evidence that exercise alone or part of a multi-disciplinary program results in decreased disability for workers with non-acute low back pain (Oesch P 2010). There is no sufficient evidence to support the recommendation of any particular exercise regimen over any other exercise regimen.

e. Return-to-Work: The authorized treating physician should continually evaluate the patient for their potential to return to work. When return-to-work is an option, it may be appropriate to implement a Work Hardening Program (as described in Section F. 12, Therapeutic Procedures, Non-Operative). For patients currently employed, efforts should be aimed at keeping them employed. Formal rehabilitation programs should provide assistance in creating work profiles. For more specific information regarding return-to-work, refer to the Return-to-work section in this guideline.

f. Patient Education: Patients with pain need to re-establish a healthy balance in lifestyle. All providers should educate patients on how to overcome barriers to resuming daily activity, including pain management, decreased energy levels, financial constraints, decreased physical ability, and change in family dynamics.

g. Psychosocial Evaluation and Treatment: Psychosocial evaluation should be initiated, if not previously done. Providers of care should have a thorough understanding of the patient’s personality profile; especially if dependency issues are involved. Psychosocial treatment may enhance the patient’s ability to participate in pain treatment rehabilitation, manage stress, and increase their problem-solving and self-management skills.

h. Vocational Assistance: Vocational assistance can define future employment opportunities or assist patients in obtaining future employment. Refer to Return-to-work section for detailed information.

Interdisciplinary programs are characterized by a variety of disciplines that participate in the assessment, planning, and/or implementation of the treatment program. These programs are for patients with greater levels of perceived disability, dysfunction, de-conditioning and psychological involvement. Programs should have sufficient personnel to work with the individual in the following areas: behavior, functional, medical, cognitive, pain management, psychological, social and vocational.

The following programs are listed in alphabetical order.

a. Formal Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation Programs:




Interdisciplinary Pain Rehabilitation: An Interdisciplinary Pain Rehabilitation Program provides outcomes-focused, coordinated, goal-oriented interdisciplinary team services to measure and improve the functioning of persons with pain and encourage their appropriate use of health care system and services. The program can benefit persons who have limitations that interfere with their physical, psychological, social, and/or vocational functioning. The program shares information about the scope of the services and the outcomes achieved with patients, authorized providers, and insurers.

The interdisciplinary team maintains consistent integration and communication to ensure that all interdisciplinary team members are aware of the plan of care for the patient, are exchanging information, and implement the plan of care. The team members make interdisciplinary team decisions with the patient and then ensure that decisions are communicated to the entire care team.

The Medical Director of the pain program should ideally be board certified in pain management; or be board certified in his or her specialty area and have completed a one year fellowship in interdisciplinary pain medicine or palliative care recognized by a national board, or have two years experience in an interdisciplinary pain rehabilitation program. Individuals who assist in the accomplishment of functional, physical, psychological, social and vocational goal must include: a medical director, pain team physician(s), and pain team psychologist. Other disciplines on the team may include, but are not limited to: Biofeedback Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, Registered Nurse, case manager, exercise physiologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, and/or nutritionist.



  • Time to Produce Effect: 3 to 4 weeks

  • Frequency: Full time programs - No less than 5 hours/day, 5 days/week; part-time programs- 4 hours/day for 2-3 days per week.

  • Optimum Duration: 3 to 12 weeks at least 2-3 times a week. With follow up visits weekly or every other week during the first one to two months after the initial program is completed.

  • Maximum duration: 4 months for full time programs and up to 6 months for part-time programs. Periodic review and monitoring thereafter for one year, additional follow up based upon the documented maintenance of functional gains.

ii. Occupational Rehabilitation: is an interdisciplinary program addressing a patient’s employability and return-to-work. It includes a progressive increase in the number of hours per day that a patient completes work simulation tasks until the patient can tolerate a full workday. A full workday is case specific and is defined by the previous employment of the patient. Safe work place practices and education of the employer and social support system regarding the person’s status should be included. This is accomplished by addressing the medical, psychological, behavioral, physical, functional, and vocational components of employability and return-to-work.

There is some evidence that an integrated care programs, consisting of workplace interventions and graded activity teaching that pain need not limit activity, is effective in returning patients with chronic low back pain to work, even with minimal reported reduction of pain Lambeek L 2010.

The interdisciplinary team should, at a minimum, be comprised of a qualified medical director who is board certified with documented training in occupational rehabilitation, team physicians having experience in occupational rehabilitation, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

As appropriate, the team may also include: chiropractor, RN, case manager, psychologist and vocational specialist or certified biofeedback therapist.



  • Time to Produce Effect: 2 weeks.

  • Frequency: 2 to 5 visits per week, up to 8 hours/day.

  • Optimum Duration: 2 to 4 weeks.

  • Maximum Duration: 6 weeks. Participation in a program beyond six weeks must be documented with respect to need and the ability to facilitate positive symptomatic and functional gains.

b. Informal Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation Program:
A coordinated interdisciplinary pain rehabilitation program is one in which the authorized treating physician coordinates all aspects of care. This type of program is similar to the formal programs in that it is goal oriented and provides interdisciplinary rehabilitation services to manage the needs of the patient in the following areas: (a) functional, (b) medical, (c) physical, (d) psychological, (e) social, and (f) vocational.

This program is different from a formal program in that it involves lower frequency and intensity of services/treatment. Informal rehabilitation is geared toward those patients who do not need the intensity of service offered in a formal program or who cannot attend an all-day program due to employment, daycare, language or other barriers.

Patients should be referred to professionals experienced in outpatient treatment of chronic pain. The Division recommends the authorized treating physician consult with physicians experienced in the treatment of chronic pain to develop the plan of care. Communication among care providers regarding clear objective goals and progress toward the goals is essential. Employers should be involved in return to work and work restrictions and the family/social support system should be included in the treatment plan. Other disciplines likely to be involved include biofeedback therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, registered nurse, psychologist, case manager, exercise physiologist, psychiatrist, and/or nutritionist.


  • Time to Produce Effect: 3 to 4 weeks

  • Frequency: Full time programs - no less than 5 hours/day, 5 days/week; Part time programs - 4 hours/day for 2-3 days per week.

  • Optimum Duration: 3 to 12 weeks at least 2-3 times a week. With follow up visits weekly or every other week during the first one to two months after the initial program is completed.

  • Maximum duration: 4 months for full time programs and up to 6 months for part-time programs. Periodic review and monitoring thereafter for one year, additional follow up based upon the documented maintenance of functional gains.

c. Opioid/Chemical Treatment Programs:


Chemical dependency, which for worker compensation issues will usually be related to opioids, anxiolytics, or hypnotics as prescribed for the original workers compensation injury, should be treated with specific programs providing medical and psychological assessment, treatment planning and individual as well group counseling and education.

They may be inpatient or outpatient programs, depending upon the level of intensity of services required. Formal treatment programs are appropriate for patients who have more intense (e.g. use extraordinarily excessive doses of prescription drugs to which they have developed tolerance) or multiple drug abuse issues (e.g. benzodiazepines and/or alcohol) and those with complex medical conditions or psychiatric issues drug misuse. A medical physician with appropriate training preferably board certified in addiction medicine, should provide the initial evaluation and oversee the program. Full primary assessment should include behavioral health assessment; medical history; physical examination, mental status; current level of functioning; employment history; legal history; history of abuse, violence, and risk taking behavior; education level; use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; and social support system (CARF 2010-11).

Addiction counselors, and other trained health care providers as needed, are involved in the program. Peer and group support is an integral part of the program and families are encouraged to attend. There should be good communication between the program and other external services, external health care providers, Alanon, AA and pain medicine providers. Drug screening is performed as appropriate for the individual, minimally initially and at least weekly during the initial detoxification and intensive initial treatment.

Clear withdrawal procedures are delineated for voluntary, against medical advice, and involuntary withdrawal. Withdrawal programs must have a clear treatment plan and include description of symptoms of medical and emotional distress, significant signs of opioid withdrawal, and actions taken. All programs should have clear direction on how to deal with violence in order to assure safety for all participants. Transition and discharge should be carefully planned with full communication to outside resources CARF 2010-11. Duration of inpatient programs are usually 4 weeks while outpatient programs may take 12 weeks.

Drug detoxification may be performed on an outpatient or inpatient basis. Detoxification is unlikely to succeed in isolation when not followed by prolonged chemical dependency treatment. Isolated detoxification is usually doomed to failure with very high recidivism rates.

Neither ultra-rapid nor rapid-detoxification are recommended due to possible respiratory depression and death and the lack of evidence for long range treatment success.

Abstinence models are preferred by most chemical dependency treatment programs but are problematic for those chronic pain patients who may require the continued use of opioid analgesics. Methadone, buprenorphine, or buprenorphine/naloxone are usually the first line agents for treating such patients; however, continued use in an outpatient setting of methadone for opioid dependency requires dispensing by a licensed methadone clinic and buprenorphine, for the same purpose, by a physician possessing a special DEA license. As of the time of this guideline writing, some formulations of buprenorphine/naloxone have been FDA approved for the treatment of opioid dependence. It is strongly recommended that the use of either drug for the purpose of treating chronic pain be limited to physicians with additional training. In the case of methadone, there are increasing numbers of inadvertent deaths due to misuse, including prescribing errors. In the case of buprenorphine, its use as an analgesic is not currently FDA approved and conversion to this drug from other opioids is difficult. It should never be a first-line analgesic for chronic pain due to high cost and the presence of other opioids that may be more effective for moderate-to-severe chronic pain.

Tapering opioids on an outpatient basis requires a highly motivated patient and diligent treatment team and may be accomplished by decreasing the current dose 10% per day or per week. Tapering should be accompanied by addiction counseling. Failing a trial of tapering a patient should be sent to a formal addiction program. When the dose has reached 1/3 of the original dose, the taper should proceed at half or less of the initial rate. Doses should be held or possibly increased if severe withdrawal symptoms, pain, or reduced treatment failure otherwise occurs. This method is tedious, time consuming and more likely to fail than more rapid and formalized treatment programs.


  • Time to Produce Effect: 3 to 4 weeks

  • Frequency: Full time programs- no less than 5 hours/day, 5 days/week; part time programs- 4 hours/day for 2-3 days per week.

  • Optimum Duration: 3 to 12 weeks at least 2-3 times a week. With follow up visits weekly or every other week during the first one to two months after the initial program is completed.

  • Maximum duration: 4 months for full time programs and up to 6 months for part-time programs. Periodic review and monitoring thereafter for one year, additional follow up based upon the documented maintenance of functional gains

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