Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

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Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a form of chronic pain that typically develops after an injury, surgery, stroke, or heart attack, and can affect the arm, leg, hand, or foot. The pain is usually disproportionately more severe than the initial injury.


Symptoms of CRPS


Patients with CRPS may experience the following signs and symptoms:

  • Continuous burning or throbbing pain, typically in the arm, leg, hand, or foot
  • Sensitivity to touch or cold
  • Swelling of the painful area
  • Fluctuating skin temperature
  • Changes in skin color, from white and blotchy, to red or blue
  • Changes in skin texture
  • Changes in hair and nail growth
  • Joint swelling, stiffness, and damage
  • Muscle spasms, tremors, weakness, and loss
  • Decreased mobility of the affected body part

The condition may spread to other parts of the body, such as the opposite limb. When changes occur in the skin and nails, the condition may be irreversible.

Woman-experiencing-pain-in-the-elbow-from-complex-regional-pain-syndrome
Male-patient-speaking-to-doctor-about-leg-pain-from-complex-regional-pain-syndrome

Causes of CRPS


The exact cause of CRPS is not fully understood, however doctors believe the condition is caused by an injury to or an abnormality of the peripheral and central nervous systems.

The two types of CRPS have similar symptoms but different causes:

  • Type 1. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is caused by an illness or injury that didn’t directly damage the nerves in the affected limb. About 90% of CRPS cases are type 1.
  • Type 2. This type of CRPS occurs after a nerve injury.

CRPS may also occur after a crushing injury, fracture, surgery, heart attack, infection, and sprained ankle.

Left untreated, CRPS can lead to tissue wasting (atrophy) or muscle tightening (contracture).

Treatment Options for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome


At Westcare Clinics, patients suffering from complex regional pain syndrome may be treated with joint and soft tissue injections, pain management techniques, and occupational medicine.

Joint and soft tissue injections, such as epidural injections (interlaminar and transforaminal), piriformis injection, sacroiliac joint injections, and trigger point injections, can help ease and treat complex regional pain syndrome. The type of soft tissue injection that is done will depend on the type, severity, and location of the pain.

Doctor-explaining-treatment-plan-to-patient-with-CRPS

Patients suffering from complex regional pain syndrome may experience relief by incorporating pain management techniques into treatment; these techniques may include cold and heat therapy, physical therapy, therapeutic massage, gentle exercise, biofeedback, mind-body techniques, music therapy, and occupational therapy. The pain management techniques will be customized according to the patient’s needs.

Westcare Clinics also offers occupational medicine to help patients maintain the strength they need to continue working. Our healthcare practitioners are available to train employers to adapt the workplace and worker responsibilities to the physical limitations of their employees.

Advanced Treatment


Patients suffering from complex regional pain syndrome may need complex, long-term care to manage the pain and treat the condition. Advanced treatment options may include surgery, physical therapy, chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture, and other forms of rehabilitation. The Westcare Clinics team is happy to answer any questions patients may have about obtaining advanced treatment for their condition.

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