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COPE with Pain

Chronic pain in the workplace


$12.2 Billion a Week1

That’s the cost of chronic pain in the U.S. It’s more than cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Furthermore, three in four chronic pain patients report feeling depressed2 and two-thirds expect to live with chronic pain for the rest of their lives.2

PAIN in America

More People live with CHRONIC PAIN than CANCER, HEART DISEASE, & DIABETIES combined.
More People live with CHRONIC PAIN than CANCER, HEART DISEASE, & DIABETIES combined.

More than 30% of Americans are living with some form of chronic or severe pain.

Sources: National Institues of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), Institute of Medicine

Psychosocial roots of delayed recovery

The correlation between psychosocial issues, escalating pain and disability and delayed recovery are well-documented. Psychological and social issues include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Coping skills
  • Lack of social support
  • Addictions and withdrawal
  • Insomnia
  • Memory and other cognitive impairments

These conditions potentially lead to an increased level of work-related stress and deterioration mental and physical health and work performance. Without proper evaluation and treatment, chronic pain is physically and psychologically debilitating for employees but also dangerously costly for employers in terms of direct and indirect costs.

Evaluating chronic pain from every angle

The debilitating impact of chronic pain cannot be overstated — for an injured employee, the result is likely to be further disability and delayed recovery. While the IMCS COPE with Pain Program (COPE) addresses the very real physical symptoms of chronic pain, it also focuses on identifying and treating the less evident psychosocial issues that can escalate pain.

Anticipate a remarkable functional transformation

COPE = HOPE. COPE’s innovative approach incorporates evidence-based treatment methods based on the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s Work Injury Assessment & Intervention Pain Guidelines — the “gold standard” for treating occupational injuries and illnesses. Using cognitive behavioral therapy, the transformation of injured workers who suffer with chronic pain and delayed recovery has been remarkable as they become healthier, happier “IMCS return-to-work” success stories.

IMCS dramatic outcomes

Injured employees who have undergone the IMCS COPE Program have shown positive outcomes.3

  • These employees returned to work 4 – 6 weeks sooner
  • Their medical utilization decreased as psychosocial risk factors were addressed. This resulted in 10% fewer imaging studies, 14% fewer specialist consults and 6% fewer surgeries

Referring employees to COPE

What are the indicators that determine the need for a work injury assessment & intervention referral?

  • Psychosocial dysfunction is observed (work/social issues)
  • Recovery appears to be delayed
  • The employee is having medication challenges and/or drug problems
  • Depression or anxiety is observed

**Services provided under the COPE with Pain program do not initiate or support unwarranted psychiatric diagnosis. Services are adjunctive to the physical diagnoses.

COPE screening and assessment protocols

Once an employee has been referred to COPE, IMCS clinicians evaluate the following:

  • Determine the likelihood of delayed recovery
  • Assess the biopsychosocial barriers to recovery and subsequent return-to-work
  • Develop a brief functional restoration treatment program

COPE intervention strategy

COPE interventions are typically 4 — 8 sessions. COPE’s Functional Interventions include cognitive, behavioral, problem solving and functional restoration for:

  • Physical activity
  • Activities of daily living
  • Work functionality
  • Mood fluctuations
  • Sleep disorders

COPE screening and assessment protocols

The COPE conference consultation consists of an interdisciplinary and collaborative team review of the patient’s treatment progress, completion of homework assignments and goals for functional restoration, including:

  • A comprehensive review of obstacles to recovery of function
  • A return-to-work and medication tapering plan

1 Darrell J. Gaskin, Patrick Richard. The Economic Costs of Pain in the United States. The Journal of Pain, 2012; 13 (8): 715 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2012.03.009
2 Joy, Kevin. (2017, September 29). The Cost of Chronic Pain [Health Blog, University of Michigan]. Retrieved from
3 Coupland, M., Margison, D. Early Intervention in Psychosocial Risk Factors for Chronic Pain, Musculoskeletal Disorders and Chronic Pain Conference, Los Angeles, CA Feb 2011

For more information on the IMCS COPE program