Could You Have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome? Learn the Symptoms

Though complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS, isn’t common or well-understood, it may have a major impact on the lives of those affected by it, far out of proportion to the severity of the condition itself. A chronic pain condition that typically affects the arms or legs after an injury, heart attack, stroke, or surgery, CRPS can be successfully treated with the best chances for full remission coming with early diagnosis.

The causes of CRPS

Thought to stem from an abnormality or injury to the peripheral and central nervous systems, CRPS has two types with similar symptoms, but different origins. CRPS Type 1 is also called sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, and it occurs after an illness or injury, but not one that causes direct damage to nerves in the limb where symptoms occur. CRPS Type 2 follows a known nerve injury, affecting the limb in much the same way as a Type 1 condition, but with a known origin. About 90% of CRPS cases are of the Type 1 variety.

Injuries that cause CRPS are often heavy traumas to a limb, such as a fracture, amputation, or crushing-type injury. As well as these more common causes, other traumas including infections and sprained ankles can cause CRPS symptoms, though it isn’t known how these injuries act as triggers in some people. It’s suspected that there are unusual communications between the peripheral and central nervous systems and/or irregular inflammatory responses in the body.

The symptoms of CRPS

Recognizing the symptoms of CRPS can be crucial to early diagnosis and, therefore, successful treatment. If you’ve experienced a trauma that’s known to trigger CRPS, be on the lookout for symptoms in the affected limb such as:

Every patient may have a unique combination of symptoms, and these may change over time. When changes to the limb occur, they may be irreversible, so early detection is important. It’s also possible that symptoms may spread from the injured limb to its opposite, uninjured counterpart.

Treating CRPS

Some patients will find that CRPS resolves on its own. For others, the symptoms may continue for months or years and may cause permanent damage. As with many disorders, CRPS treatment typically starts with conservative interventions, such as over-the-counter analgesics and anti-inflammatories. Prescription versions of these medications may be the next step, as well as the use of some antidepressant and anticonvulsant medications, which also treat pain originating from damaged nerves.

The doctors at Northwest Suburban Pain Center have good success treating CRPS using sympathetic nerve blocks. Stellate nerve blocks treat CRPS when it occurs in your hands and arms, and lumbar sympathetic nerve blocks treat symptoms that affect your feet and legs.

If you suspect you’re suffering from CRPS, contact Northwest Suburban Pain Center as soon as you can to arrange a consultation. The sooner you begin treatment, the more likely you can avoid muscle atrophy or tissue damage.

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