Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

FAQs on Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Both Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) are the presence of chronic pain that is localized to only one limb, commonly resulting from severe trauma to that limb.

These conditions are believed to be linked to damage to the nervous tissue. CRPS itself has two separate classifications of the syndrome: CRPS I and CRPS II. CRPS I is an alternative name for RSD and is the presence of chronic pain in a limb that does not have obvious or confirmed nerve damage. Confirmation of injury to the nerves of the limb is CRPS II.

What causes CRPS and RSD?


It is possible for two patients to suffer the same injury yet have only one patient develop either of these conditions. The exact trigger within a patient that stimulates these pains is still not clear to physicians, meaning, we are still unable to detect why one patient will develop CRPS and another with similar injuries will not.

In the majority of known CRPS cases —over 90%—the trauma suffered was a fracture, sprain, or resulted from surgery. CRPS itself can be thought of as a severe allergic reaction to trauma.

The symptoms of CRPS and RSD


The prominent symptom shared by these two conditions is severe, chronic pain isolated to a single limb. Pain from this condition will vary from one patient to another, and can range from a minor tingling sensation to severe debilitating pain.

The body will also experience constant temperature fluctuation and may cause skin discoloration. These two symptoms stem from the damaged nerves of the area creating improper blood circulation.

There is also the possibility of a patient losing partial or full muscle control of an area if the nervous damage is severe enough. The area may also develop involuntary muscle spasms and abnormal sweating.

How are CRPS and RSD diagnosed?


There is currently no direct test that is able to confirm or deny the presence of these conditions. Instead, diagnosis is achieved at the discretion of the physician who will take a detailed account of the symptoms exhibited by the patient, his/her medical history, and of the events leading up to the symptoms. The symptoms reported by the patient will be compared against a list of known conditional symptoms.

Since CRPS and RSD conditions have symptoms similar to those found in other conditions, extensive testing must be performed in order to rule out other possible causes of the patient’s pain. Depending on how long the patient has been exhibiting the condition, some symptoms may have faded prior to testing. Diagnosis is really a process of eliminating all other possibilities first, leaving only CRPS or RSD as the last remaining probable cause.

Treatment options for CRPS and RSD


The treatments available to the patient will be based largely on what symptoms are being exhibited and how severe they are. Normally, physical therapy will be offered to help return the limb to a functioning state. This is also useful for regulating blood circulation in that area.

Psychotherapy may be effective for some patients, as some think of CRPS and RSD as being a neurological condition similar to PTSD. One final option available to patients is the blocking of the problematic nerves in order to prevent their sending of signals to the brain. This can provide both pain relief and regulation of the muscular and nervous activity of that area.

If you or a loved one is suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and would like more information, contact Texas Pain Network today. The practice has a Double Board Certified pain management doctor accepting over 50 insurance plans at multiple locations.

Call (210) 202-4030 for more information and scheduling!