Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition of continual pain that affects only one part of the body, such as an arm, leg, hand, or foot. The pain is usually considered to be an overreaction to an injury or trauma. The “regional” factor is what makes this condition different from fibromyalgia, which is body-wide pain.
The cause of complex regional pain syndrome is believed to be damage to a peripheral nerve during the trauma that caused the injury; however, the affected nerve is not necessarily in the same area as the pain. The nerve injury may have been due to some type of blunt-force trauma – such as a fall or an accident – or due to surgery, heart attack, or stroke.
CRPS is marked by prolonged, intense, unrelenting pain in one particular part of the body. This condition can even display changes in skin color and skin temperature, as well as swelling, throbbing, spasms, weakness, or hypersensitivity in the area. The peripheral nerve seems to send erratic signals of pain.
Types of CRPS
There are two types of CRPS. Type 1 is much more common than type 2.
Patients who do not have a confirmed nerve injury in the affected area are classified as CRPS type 1. This is also called reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD), because the pain is a “sympathetic” pain rather than a direct pain.
Only about 10% of people with CRPS are type 2. This type of CRPS is due to a precise and known nerve injury. This is also called causalgia.
Symptoms of CRPS
The main symptom of complex regional pain syndrome is an unrelenting pain in a certain area of the body, usually following an injury. The people who have this condition describe this pain as:
- Pins-and-needles sensation
- Radiating pain
Even if the injury was to a finger, the pain can radiate up the arm all the way to the shoulder.
In addition to pain, there can be marked changes in the skin where the original injury was. The skin may appear thin, shiny, and sweaty. The area may even display abnormal changes in hair and nail growth.
How Can CRPS Be Treated?
This condition can be successfully treated by rehabilitation and physical therapy that focuses on keeping the area moving and facilitating blood flow. Medications may also be prescribed, including corticosteroids and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
Patients normally begin self-treatment of this condition with over-the-counter pain medications, because they have not yet sought a professional diagnosis. When the patient realizes that this pain is chronic, this is usually when they look for the help of a physician who specializes in treating pain.
Pain Doctor in Austin, TX
If you have suffered an injury and it has left you with chronic, unbearable nerve pain, contact our caring team at Balcones Pain Consultants. We have many ways to help you be more pain-free again, so you can enjoy living the way you want to live.
Call us today at (512) 834-4141 or fill out our appointment request form online now, and let us help you reduce or eliminate those mystery pains once and for all.