What Is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

The important thing for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is that treatment be started as early possible to encourage patient improvement and even remission in some cases.

complex regional pain syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome abbreviated as CPRS is a type of pain that affects an arm or a leg. CPRS usually occurs after an injury or after surgery. It is usually described as pain that is greater or more than the first or original injury. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is not a really common sickness and its main causes or contributing factors are currently unknown. The important thing for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is that treatment is started as early possible. This is so the treatment can encourage patient improvement and even remission in some cases.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)?

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) has a number of signs and symptoms that should not be ignored by patients experiencing them. These include incessant throbbing and burning pain usually in the arm, leg or foot, highly sensitized towards touch and cold, inflammation of the affected area, alternating skin temperature from sweaty to cold, change in the color of the skin such as going from red to white, change in the texture of the skin which could mean shiny or rough in and around the affected area, changes in the growth pattern of the hair and nails, stiffness and swelling of the joints which may eventually lead to joint damage, muscle tremors and spasms which may consequently lead to muscle weakness and loss and reduced ability to fluidly move the affected body part.

These symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome can be different from one person to another and can change over time. It has also been observed that Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) can move to different parts of the body and joints such as the opposite limb or joint.

What are the causes of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)?

Currently, the main cause of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is unknown. It is however attributed to problems encountered by the central nervous system after an injury or trauma. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) can be classified into two (2) different types with the same or similar signs and symptoms.

  • Type 1:  Type 1 Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also called reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD), is usually caused by an injury or trauma that did not directly damage the nerves of the CRPS affected limb. Most patients (around 90% of them) experience type 1 CRPS making this type of CRPS the more common one.
  • Type 2: Type 2 Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) on the other hand, is called causalgia and can have the same signs and symptoms as type 1. The difference between Type 2 and type 1 is that for type 2 CRPS, it tends to be centered more on a distinct injured nerve.

Numerous cases of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is usually caused by major types of injuries and traumas. This includes injuries caused by a crushing force, a bone fracture or surgical amputation. Other traumas like surgery, heart attacks and even something as simple as a sprained ankle may also result in CRPS.

What are the complications of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)?

If CRPS is not treated early, some adverse effects or complications can present themselves to the patient. It can also result in disability and a sharp decline in overall health wellness. Below are some of the said complications of CFPS:

  • Atrophy: Tissue wasting or atrophy may occur as a complication of CRPS. Skin, muscle, and bones may deteriorate and weaken if CRPS is not immediately treated.
  • Muscle Contracture:  Individuals suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) may also experience tightening of the muscles. This may result in the fingers of the hand and foot contracting into a fixed immovable position.

How to prevent Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)?

There are some measures individuals can take to prevent the development of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Listed below are some of these prevention tips:

  • Taking vitamin C after a fracture: Evidence suggests that Vitamin C can help patients prevent CRPS.  Individuals who took a daily dose of 500 milligrams of vitamin C after suffering a wrist fracture showed a decreased risk in terms of developing CRPS.
  • Early mobilization after experiencing a stroke: Studies suggest that those who walk around and move about (early mobilization) right after a stroke, tended to have a lowered risk of developing Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

How to diagnose Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)?

The diagnosis for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is usually conducted by doing a physical exam and looking at a patient’s medical history. No single procedure can help to definitively diagnose CRPS but a combination of the following diagnostic tools can give doctors some important information:

  • Bone Scan: Bone scans can check for any change in the bone formation of patients. This is usually conducted by injecting a radioactive compound into the veins of patients. This then lets doctors and scan the bones for any problems or issues using special medical equipment.
  • Sympathetic nervous system tests: The sympathetic nervous system test usually looks for disturbances in a patient’s sympathetic nervous system. An example would be thermography. Thermography measures skin temperature and blood circulation for both the patient’s affected and unaffected limbs.
  • X-rays: In the later stages of the disease, the loss of minerals and nutrients in the bones can be identified via X-ray.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging:  Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI can look into a patient’s body to scan for any tissue changes.

Medications and Therapies for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Doctors will usually prescribe various medications and therapies to address and alleviate the symptoms of CRPS. Drugs that are commonly prescribed by doctors for CRPS are Pain reliever, Antidepressant and anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, bone-loss medications, sympathetic nerve-blocking medication, and intravenous ketamine. Therapies usually recommended by physicians are Heat therapy, topical analgesics, physical therapy, mirror therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulations (TENS), biofeedback, spinal cord stimulation, and intrathecal drug pumps.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) can recur due to exposure to several factors such as cold or extreme stress. Recurrences such as these may be treated by certain medications such as antidepressants.

complex regional pain syndrome

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