Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS/RSD)
Complex regional pain syndrome is an uncommon form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg. Complex regional pain syndrome typically develops after an injury, surgery, stroke, or heart attack, but the pain is out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury.
Symptoms of CRPS/RSD
The most important thing to understand about this is that the pain will be intense and affect you all of the time. If you have CRPS, you might notice some of the following many uncomfortable symptoms in your leg, arm, foot, or hand:
- Sensitivity to cold or the touch
- Skin temperature changes between cold and sweaty
- Constant throbbing or burning pain
- Joint swelling or stiffness
- Muscle weakness and/or spasms
- Skin that turns shiny, thin, white, red, blue, or mottled
If the opposite limb that was injured becomes painful or has temperature differences. There are usually three stages of CRPS, each stage becoming more painful:
- Up to 3 months: The area affected will be very sensitive to the touch still, the pain will be intense and burning.
- 3 months to 1 year: Wrinkles in the skin fade, however swelling is longer lasting. Pain spreads beyond the affected area and joints stiffen.
- 1 year+: Pain may lessen, but the stiffness will cause the affected limb to be unable to move as well as it did before. Skin becomes shiny, pale, and stretched.
Causes of CRPS/RSD
Most often, complex regional pain syndrome appears after an injury. However, other problems can be a cause as well. CRPS can be triggered by a number of things such as a heart attack, infection, cancer, pressure on a nerve, neck problems, or stroke.
It is rare for children and a senior to get CRPS- it usually affects people between the ages of 20 and 35. Doctors will usually divide the causes into two different types. Type 1 occurs after an injury that didn’t have a direct effect on the nerve. Type 2 happens after an injury that harmed a nerve.
Treatment and diagnoses for CRPS
No tests can show if you have CRPS. You may get tests done to rule out arthritis. If no arthritis is present, then your doctor will discuss previous injuries that may have lead to CRPS being triggered, and seeing what other symptoms you are dealing with. Your doctor may also request x-rays and other bone tests to discover any abnormalities.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for people who suffer, so most common approaches to reducing pain are by taking/utilizing:
- Physical therapy: this improves leg or arm flexibility by improving blood circulation to the injured area
- Anti-swelling medicine
- Painkillers- these can be stronger prescription painkillers or over the counter depending on the severity
- Anesthetic patches and creams that numb the sensitive areas
- Spinal cord stimulation by a battery-powered device inserted during surgery
- Surgery: doctors tend to disagree that this approach truly works, but if decided, during the surgery nerves will be destroyed to get rid of the pain
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