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What Is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition. It used to be known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome. When a patient suffers from this condition, his or her nervous system sends high-intensity signals to the site. This creates painful symptoms that can become worse over time and eventually be so severe that even the mildest stimulation causes intense pain. It is believed that Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is caused by a dysfunction in the nervous system and could be due to issues with either the central of peripheral nervous system. Patients with CRPS are most often between the ages of 20 and 35 and more often female. However, the condition does occur in male patients as well as children. Chronic pain management can be beneficial to patients suffering from CRPS.
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a type of severe or chronic pain in the arm or leg. Usually, it occurs after a surgery, injury or stroke. The pain is more severe than the original injury. It’s characterized by joint inflammation and stiffness, changes in skin texture and color, a persistent throbbing pain or a burning sensation. It may also be accompanied by muscle weakness and atrophy.
What Causes Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
While the causes of complex regional pain syndrome are still being investigated, many researchers and scientists believe it’s due to an injury, trauma or abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. This condition is divided into two categories, each one having various causes:
- Type 1: This type is also called reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD). It happens after an injury or illness that didn’t affect the nerves of the limb now having chronic pain. It’s the most common type of CRPS.
- Type 2: This issue is caused by an injured nerve on the affected limb. It’s also called causalgia, and it has the same kinds of symptoms as Type 1.
The causes identified during complex regional pain syndrome diagnosis in NJ include:
- A crushing injury, including an amputation or fracture
- A heart attack
- A sprained ankle
What Are the Symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
The most common symptom of CRPS is intense, continuous pain that worsens rather than diminishing over time. CRPS symptoms vary in severity and length. A simple injury to a finger can spread to include the whole arm and in some cases travel to the opposite extremity. The most common symptoms of CRPS are:
- Swelling in affected joints
- Stiffness in affected joints
- Burning pain
- Changes in nail and hair growth patterns, including rapid or no growth
- Motor disability such as a decreased ability to move the affected body part
- Significant changes in skin temperature and appearance. The skin on one extremity can appear warmer or cooler compared to the opposite extremity. Skin can change color and appear blotchy, purple pale or red. The skin may sometimes sweat excessively.
How is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Diagnosed?
This isn’t a test that can diagnose CRPS. However, a doctor can rule out other potential conditions using a variety of tests, such as using hot and cold compresses to locate specific areas of pain or using a triple-phase bone scan to look for changes in bone and blood circulation. These tests can help your doctor determine if you are suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or if there is another underlying cause for your pain. Getting a diagnosis for CRPS can take a while, though, especially if your symptoms are initially mild. A few symptoms that your doctor will look for include:
- The presence of an injury
- Higher-than-usual pain resulting from that injury
- A chance in the appearance (particularly the hair and skin) around the injury
CRPS may also be diagnosed when there is no apparent injury nor is there a change in the appearance around the pain-afflicted area.
What are Treatment Options for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
There are a number of treatment options for patients with CRPS, including chronic pain management techniques that can help alleviate their symptoms. However, there is no cure for CRPS. Some of the treatment options could include physical therapy, psychotherapy, and prescription medication. Medications prescribed by your doctor for CRPS can include anti-depressants, narcotics, anti-seizure medication, and topical analgesics among others.
A chronic pain management specialist can offer additional treatment options such as:
- Surgical Sympathectomy: This surgery involves the removal of the nerves affected by CRPS. This is a controversial surgery, as some people find it relieves the pain while other feel it could make the condition worse.
- Sympathetic nerve block: These injections block the signals going to the nerve cells.
- Spinal cord stimulation: This is another way to disrupt the pain signals going to the affected area. In this procedure, electrodes are used next to the spinal column to disrupt the signals going out.
- Intrathecal drug pump: This treatment involves implanting a catheter in the spine which delivers pain medication directly to the spinal fluid.
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