COMPLEX REGIONAL PAIN SYNDROME
What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a disorder that can typically affect a person’s arm or leg. CRPS is considered a form of chronic pain that usually develops after an injury, a surgery, a stroke or a heart attack or without any inciting injury. Due to the severity of the illness the level of pain is considerably higher than that of the initial injury/illness. It is an emergency in pain medicine.
What are the symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
Signs and symptoms of CRPS include:
- Continuous burning or feeling that the affected limb is being squeezed
- Increased sensitivity to pain to the point where if an individual is touched lightly or exposed to something cold it can cause excruciating pain
- Swelling of the painful area, this can come and go in some cases
- Changes in skin colour, this ranges from pale and blotchy to red or purple
- Changes in skin temperature — the affected skin will tend to alternate between hot and cold and be a different temperature from the rest of your extremities
- Changes in skin texture, can become thin or shiny in the affected area, it also may become more tender
- Hair and nail growth may be affected, some may experience an increase while others can have little to no growth
- Loss of basic motor function in the affected areas, some may experience muscle spasms, tremors and weakness in that limb, in some cases complete loss of motion can occur
Who is at risk of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
Currently the root cause of CRPS is not known and is thought to be a result of general inflammation or inflammation of a person’s nerves. This then causes abnormalities in the central nervous system which changes the way in which we perceive any sensation in the affected area. CRPS usually occurs following an injury or a trauma that an individual has experienced.
CRPS appears to peak around age 40, however the syndrome also can occur in children. It typically affects women more often than men.
What are the treatments of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
- There is no definitive cure for CRPS however there are effective ways in which the symptoms can be managed, and most treatment options involve strengthening the affected areas and trying to reduce the pain as much as possible.
- It is also important to note that the earlier an individual starts therapy the better chance they have of reducing the effect that CRPS will have on them.
- Most over the counter pain relief medications will assist in the easing of the pain however if they are not working effectively most doctors can prescribe stronger pain medications such as opioids, however these should be a last resort and should be taken in appropriate doses as suggested by your doctor.
- A therapy such as mirror therapy may also be suggested by medical professionals. Through through this method you are tricking the brain by moving your healthy limb while looking in a mirror. This is called Graded Motor Imagery. This will allow for your brain to believe that the affected limb is also operational and may bring back some motor skills.
- Additionally, vigorous physical therapy is an important part of a person recovery. It can increase movement and strengthen any affected limbs. This in combination with occupational therapy and Pain psychology will teach you new ways to perform daily tasks without needing to use your affected limb. It can be a great way to combat a lack of motor skills.
- At Sydney Pain Management Centre other treatments include pharmacological treatments,bone loss medication, psychological therapy and spinal cord stimulation (a remote-controlled electrical current to the spinal cord) will be offered that results in pain relief.
About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, incidence and symptoms – Cleveland Clinic
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Overview and Treatments – Mayo Clinic