Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: What It Is and How It’s Treated

Understanding the illness known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS can be challenging. Now that more is understood about this disorder, it is no longer referred to as both causalgia and reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). CRPS, or complex regional pain syndrome, is a general term that describes excessive and protracted pain and inflammation that occur after an injury to an arm or leg. There are two kinds: an acute (short-term) type and a chronic one (where it lasts longer than six months or half a year). It’s possible that this pain will be so severe that you won’t even be able to utilize the affected extremity.

Approximately 26 out of every 100,000 people have CRPS. It affects females 3.5:1 more frequently than males. Although CRPS can afflict persons of any age, including those as young as three and as elderly as 75, it is most common in those in their mid-thirties. 5% of all traumatic injuries result in CRPS Type I, while 91% of all CRPS cases happen after surgery.

Complex regional pain syndrome


The fact that there can be a wide variety of pain symptoms, from spontaneous pain to excess pain that is much worse than normal with a light touch or brush of the extremity, makes this illness challenging to understand. Aside from temperature variations and skin color changes, CRPS can also be accompanied by edema beneath the injury site.

CRPS affects the arm or the leg, and although it usually gets better over time to the point that it frequently goes away, it can also linger or become more severe in certain situations, which can be very debilitating.


One of the most aggravating aspects of CRPS is how it can impact some persons who have had the same injuries as others without also affecting the other afflicted parties. As a result, there is no genuine “cause” for CRPS; rather, it only manifests in those who have already sustained an injury to an extremity. Through this link, researchers have deduced that the cause is due to the dysfunction of or damage to the wounded peripheral sensory neurons.

The brain and spinal cord make up the nervous system, while the peripheral nervous system is what allows the brain and spinal cord’s nerve signals to travel to every other area of the body. This indicates that the signal of extreme pain is delivered when the neurons are damaged or not functioning properly.

Our bodies use pain to alert us to potential threats. Both exterior ones (such as pain from holding your hand too close to a fire) and internal ones are possible (a headache). When the nervous system receives inaccurate information regarding the intensity of the pain being felt by the extremity, CRPS develops. This can result in acute or recurrent episodes of intense pain that can become incapacitating.

Complex regional pain syndrome treatment


Although the exact etiology of CRPS is unknown, some injuries are linked to it more frequently than others :

Broken bones

The nerves may suffer damage, particularly when treating wrist fractures. CRPS may develop if these factors are combined with a too-tight cast. This means that unpleasant or uncomfortable casts need to be replaced right away.

The operation

The nature of surgery can cause nerve injury because it requires entering the body in a non-natural method, like a surgical incision, and even the presence of sutures afterward, which will result in CRPS. Because of the nerve injury, CRPS can still manifest itself even if the surgery itself goes flawlessly.

Strains and sprains Internal injuries can still result in CRPS

This is because, during a sprain or strain, the connective tissue tears, resulting in trauma and excessive movement that can stretch neighboring nerves and harm or render the neurons inoperative.

Minor wounds, such as burns or cuts

Smaller injuries can potentially result in CRPS, much as the little incisions required occasionally for surgery. No matter how severe or minor the burn or cut, CRPS can become active if the nerves immediately beneath are injured.


Physical therapy can help control CRPS symptoms and reduce the chance of long-term physical issues.

Pain management : By treating the pain itself, a doctor can make CRPS sufferers’ exorbitantly painful episodes considerably more bearable. One method of managing pain is through a treatment called wireless peripheral nerve stimulation.

Spinal fluid drug pumps : Because of the way the neurological system functions, people with chronic pain, including those who have CRPS, can be treated using pain pumps. The spinal fluid receives painkillers directly from the pump, and these drugs can then be sent along the neurological system to relieve pain.

Consulting a physician is the recommended course of action if you believe you may have CRPS. We at Specialty Care Clinics make sure you receive relief after the treatment. To book an appointment call (469) 545-9983.

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