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.