Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS, is a condition where an area of the body suffers from unexplained pain. It usually begins in the hand or foot and then spreads to the arm or leg, causing severe pain and inflammation.

What You Need To Know About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

What is CRPS?

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a condition where nerve impulse misfires are sent to the hand, foot, arm, or leg. It usually develops after sustaining an injury, surgery, heart attack, or stroke, and may spread and become more painful over time. CRPS can be acute (short-term) or chronic (lasting for longer than 6 months) and is usually more painful than the original injury.

There are two types of CRPS. Type 1 CRPS occurs after an illness or injury that didn't directly harm the nerves in the limb. 90% of people diagnosed with CRPS have Type 1. Type 2 has similar symptoms to Type 1, but it is usually the result of direct nerve damage.

If you are suffering from unexplained pain after an injury, schedule an appointment with a Resurgens physician today.

What Causes CRPS?

The exact cause of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is unknown. Most cases of CRPS are thought to be an injury to or an abnormality of the peripheral and/or central nervous systems. The condition typically occurs as a result of direct and forceful trauma to the affected limb, but CRPS likely does not have one single cause.

Instead, experts believe that CRPS results from multiple different causes or secondary effects on the nervous system. Since the condition is an overreaction of the body's pain response, it is also theorized that CRPS triggers the immune system, causing inflammation. It may also be affected by your genetics.

What Are the Symptoms of CRPS?

While its symptoms vary on a case-by-case basis, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is usually marked by significant to severe pain that starts in one area of the body and then continues to spread throughout the affected limb or limbs. You may experience consistent burning, throbbing, swelling, sensitivity, stiffness, weakness, or loss of mobility. If CRPS develops after an injury or other trauma, the symptoms may not be in proportion to the injury the patient previously experienced.

Patients with CRPS may also experience changes to the skin, nails, and hair. The temperature of the skin may become volatile, and skin color and texture may become abnormal. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with a Resurgens physician today.

How is CRPS Diagnosed?

While there is no official test or diagnostic process for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, your Resurgens physician starts by looking through your medical history. During a physical exam, your doctor may identify skin abnormalities in the affected area, which can reveal the location of the damaged nerve. You may also get a sweat production test to measure the amount of sweat on each limb. Abnormalities in the amount of sweat may indicate that you have CRPS.

Your doctor may also recommend diagnostic imaging to look for internal issues like tissue changes or loss of minerals in the bones. You may also get a bone scan to determine whether you may have excess bone resorption, or a nerve conduction study to detect any nerve-related injuries.

Since there is no definitive test for CRPS, your doctor will make a diagnosis based upon the results of multiple tests. Your doctor will use this data to create a treatment plan that is customized to your condition.

If you are experiencing unexplained pain, schedule an appointment with a Resurgens physician today.

CRPS Treatment

Since there is no cure for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, treatment methods aim to alleviate symptoms. Your physician will discuss treatment options with you and determine the best treatment for your unique condition. Catching and treating CRPS early is often the best way to prevent chronic symptoms from worsening over time.

Resurgens offers non-surgical and surgical treatments for CRPS.

<h3>Non-surgical treatment

Physical therapy can help to decrease pain and improve mobility. Your doctor may also suggest mirror therapy, a method where the patient sits in front of a mirror and moves the healthy limb so the brain perceives it as affected by CRPS. This method can be effective in alleviating pain and increasing mobility.

Your doctor may use spinal cord stimulation, where they will insert small electrodes along the spinal cord and send electrical impulses through them to reduce pain.

Biofeedback is a technique that teaches the patient to practice awareness in the body, which can be effective in reducing pain. Dry needling may also be recommended to stimulate muscles, nerves, and connective tissue to relieve pain and increase blood flow.

Depending on your condition, your physician may recommend medication. If you are prescribed pain killers, please be careful as these can become habit-forming. Some prescribed treatments for CRPS may include:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce pain and inflammation

  • Appropriate doses of opioid medication

  • Antidepressants and anticonvulsants to treat nerve pain

  • Corticosteroid medications to reduce inflammation and improve mobility

  • Bone loss medication

  • Sympathetic nerve blocking medications

  • Intravenous ketamine treatment

  • Heat therapy

  • Topical analgesics

  • Intrathecal drug pumps

Surgical Treatment

Surgical treatment for CRPS is very rare. Procedures like surgical sympathectomy eliminate nerves affected by CRPS to alleviate pain. That said, these procedures are not usually recommended.

Your doctor will discuss all of your treatment options and customize a treatment plan for your unique needs. Get moving again by scheduling an appointment with a Resurgens physician today.

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