Also known as reflex sympathetic nerve dystrophy, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a condition in which a person experiences chronic pain in one of their limbs. The peripheral nervous system, which helps controls pain signals in the body, is thought to be damaged or not functioning properly in people with CRPS. For many with CRPS, an injury to an arm or leg causes the condition. CRPS is rare in children and older individuals but may be seen in teenagers. However, the median age of patients with CRPS is 40.

What Causes Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

It’s not clear what causes complex regional pain syndrome. In the majority of cases, the pain can be traced back to some type of trauma or injury to the limb, including:

  • Burns
  • Bruising
  • Cuts
  • Fractures
  • Medical procedures
  • Sprains & strains

In people who develop CRPS from these injuries, the body has an abnormal response to the injury and intensifies the pain. People who have autoimmune disorders or inflammatory conditions are more at risk for CRPS than other people. Genetics may also affect your risk of CRPS.

For a small number of CRPS patients, there’s no obvious injury or trauma that has led to the abnormal response. However, there may be some type of internal injury that can lead to the condition that requires additional diagnostics to detect.

Symptoms of CRPS

Symptoms of CRPS typically include pain, which can feel like a burning or squeezing sensation, and may affect the entire limb or only part of the limb. This can be true even for patients who have only had an injury in a small part of the limb, such as a finger. For people with CRPS, any touch or contact to the affected area can be unbearable.

Some patients also experience changes in skin color and temperature in the affected area due to poor circulation from nerve damage. Swelling may also be present. Not everyone will experience the same degree of symptoms with CRPS. Some may experience mild pain that goes away with time, while others may have more intense pain that doesn’t change.

People may also have the following symptoms in the affected limb:

  • Skin texture changes
  • Unusual sweating
  • Poor coordination
  • Stiffness
  • Tremors
  • Decreased range of motion

Your doctor will study your medical history to determine if you have CRPS and carefully evaluate your condition to rule out any other potential causes of your pain, such as arthritis, Lyme disease or a blood clot. Generally, MRIs or bone scans can help detect CRPS.

Potential Treatment Options

Depending on your unique condition, you may have several options for treating complex regional pain syndrome at a joint clinic near me. These may include:

  • Exercise. Your doctor can help you develop a beneficial exercise program which can improve circulation and keep your limb as mobile as possible to improve its function.
  • Addressing mental health. Chronic pain can lead to depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can increase your sensitivity to pain. Addressing your mental health may help make your other CRPS treatments more successful.
  • Medication. A combination of medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, may be helpful in treating your CRPS, especially if you catch the condition early.
  • Nerve blocks. Some people with CRPS may benefit from sympathetic nerve blocks for temporary pain relief.
  • Spinal cord stimulation. Stimulating the spinal cord to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain may help improve the discomfort of those living with CRPS.
  • Intrathecal pain pump. Instead of having to take narcotics, a pain pump introduces drugs directly into the fluid that surrounds your spinal cord, helping you avoid the side effects of pain medication while providing relief.

For many patients, there’s no singular approach that can absolve CRPS discomfort. However, by working with an experienced pain management provider, you can find a treatment plan that helps reduce your discomfort and improve your quality of life.

Searching ‘Joint Clinic Near Me’? Give Us a Call!

Do you suffer from reflex sympathetic nerve dystrophy? It could be time to search “joint clinic near me” to help you better manage your pain. Contact Summit Spine & Joint Centers at (770) 962-3642 to schedule a virtual or in-person appointment with one of our board-certified pain management physicians and find out more about your treatment options for CRPS!