Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)

What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

The term complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), formerly reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), encompasses a range of highly painful conditions that commonly develop in the extremities after a traumatic injury, infection, or result of a heart attack or stroke. CRPS can occur in any age group, and it is crucial to treat the condition early to prevent the symptoms from worsening. While it is generally classified as a chronic condition, CRPS can also manifest in acute forms.

Symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

The symptoms of CRPS can vary in intensity and frequency, initially affecting the extremities and potentially spreading throughout the body. Most people report feeling unwarranted extreme pain in their arms, legs, and fingers. This pain can be disabling as it limits people’s range of motion. Other symptoms of CRPS include:

  • Hypersensitivity
  • Redness
  • Sweating
  • Skin discoloration
  • Skin temperature changes
  • Skin texture changes
  • Stiffness & swelling
  • Abnormal hair & nail growth

Causes of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

The root cause of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is still unknown. However, it can be traced back to a failure in the central and autonomic nervous systems, which is usually the result of an injury. The nerves become hypersensitive, sending heightened pain signals to the brain that do not match the original contact’s intensity. Basic stimuli such as light touches can reflect as disproportionately painful. There are two types of CSPS, Type I, in which there is no nerve damage, and Type II in which a nerve malfunction is detected.

CRPS Treatments

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome treatments vary depending on the intensity, frequency, and duration of the symptoms. Our dedicated team of experts is here to help determine the best treatment plan for your specific condition and improve your overall quality of life. Contact us today for a consultation. Some forms of CRPS may recover on their own, while others require more advanced treatments, including but not limited to the following.

  • Physical Therapy:

    Different movement sequences and exercises can help keep the affected extremities moving, therefore, improving the circulation. Movement and improved blood flow can lessen the symptoms.

  • Medications:

    Over the counter and prescribed pain relievers, as well as corticosteroids, are often recommended to aid in easing pain and inflammation in the affected areas and restoring mobility.

  • Lumbar Sympathetic Blocks:

    A lumbar sympathetic nerve block injection involves an injection of a local anesthetic into the lower back. Short-term pain relief will result from the treatment, and, depending on the patient’s symptoms, long-term relief from the pain may be experienced.

  • Stellate Ganglion Block:

    A stellate ganglion nerve block injection involves an injection of a local anesthetic into the front of the neck. Depending on the person’s condition, short-term or long-term pain relief may be achieved.

  • Ketamine Infusion Therapy:

    Originally developed as an anesthetic, this therapy involves the intravenous distribution of ketamine, which is used to treat chronic pain and some psychological afflictions such as severe depression.

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CRPS Diagnosis

Early detection of CRPS is pivotal in the treatment and potential recovery of this condition. It is essential that people keep track of their symptoms and report them to their physician as soon as possible. While there is not one specific test to diagnose CRPS, a specialist can check for risk factors and employ some of the following tests to help rule out other conditions as the possible culprits:

  • Physical examinations
  • Blood analysis
  • Nerve conduction studies
  • X-Rays
  • MRI & CT Scans
  • Medical history

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