Chronic Pain

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic neuro-inflammatory disorder that typically affects one specific limb after an injury, believed to be caused by damage to the nervous system. The pain is usually out of proportion when compared to the initial injury. Often, the initial energy is a musculoskeletal or nerve injury.

CRPS is uncommon and still not completely understood by science, but treatment can be effective when started early on. As many as 200,000 individuals experience this condition in the United States every year.

Research has proven time and time again that although CRPS is a physical disorder, it has not been unheard of for medical professionals to suggest that patients with CRPS are exaggerating their pain for psychological reasons.

What are the symptoms of CRPS?

The most consistent symptom is constant, severe pain often described as a burning or “pins and needles” sensation throughout the affected limb. In some cases, the pain has been known to spread across the entire limb, even if the initial injury only affected a finger or a toe. The affected area may experience allodynia, which means that normal contact with the skin can be very painful.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Swelling of the affected area
  • Changes in skin temperature, color, or texture
  • Joint swelling or stiffness
  • Muscle spasms or tremors

Symptoms have been known to change over time and often vary from person to person. In rare cases, CRPS may even spread from the affected area to elsewhere in your body.

What are the causes of CRPS?

While the exact causes are still not entirely understood, in more than 90 percent of cases of CRPS the condition is triggered by a history of trauma or injury. These triggers include fractures, sprains, soft tissue injury, limb immobilization, surgery, or sometimes even a minor medical procedure such as a needle stick.

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