Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic health condition that becomes increasingly painful and disabling as time goes by. Early diagnosis is essential, and the team at Tarpon Interventional Pain & Spine Care, with offices in West Plano and North Plano, Texas, specialize in diagnosing and treating neuromusculoskeletal conditions and chronic pain problems. For the best chance at receiving treatment that genuinely improves your condition, schedule an appointment online or by phone today.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Q & A

What is complex regional pain syndrome?

CRPS is a chronic condition that causes pain and loss of function in the affected limb. CRPS used to be known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), and you may still see it referred to as RSD in medical books and on health websites.

It’s not known yet why people develop complex regional pain syndrome, although it’s more likely to develop after:

  • A stroke
  • A heart attack
  • An accident or injury
  • Cancer
  • Infection in the limb
  • Nerve compression

It may be that changes in your sympathetic nervous system can cause dysfunction in autonomic bodily functions such as blood circulation, sense of touch, and temperature sensitivity. There may also be a link to the immune system, which can cause serious autoimmune disorders when it malfunctions.

What is known is that early intervention results in better outcomes, so prompt attention is advisable. If left untreated, CRPS might lead to permanent disability.

What are the symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome?

CRPS symptoms develop over time, and patients may experience three distinct stages as the condition progresses:

Stage one

Generally lasts for three months, in which time you may feel a burning pain in the affected limb, plus stiffness, heat, and sweating. Skin can change color and may become dry and thin.

Stage two

Usually lasts for between three and 12 months. Swelling can increase, and your skin becomes cooler and more sensitive. Pain spreads and worsens, and joints and muscles stiffen even more.

Stage three

If your symptoms reach stage three, your pain is even more severe and spreads further, making the entire limb hurt. You become increasingly immobile and may suffer muscle wastage and contraction of soft tissues. It usually takes at least a year to reach stage three, and by this time the damage may be permanent.

Early diagnosis plays a key part in treatment success, but there are no definitive tests that can confirm CRPS. Your doctor uses information from your medical history, your symptoms, a physical exam, diagnostic imaging tests, and nerve conduction studies (NCS) to reach a diagnosis.

How is complex regional pain syndrome treated?

CRPS is incurable, but there are ways to relieve pain and slow down the condition’s progression. Potential treatments include:

  • Pain-killing and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Antidepressant medication
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections
  • Spinal cord stimulation (SCS)
  • Implanted pain pumps

Surgery may be helpful where there’s an injury to the nerves.

The sooner you start a course of treatment, the better your prognosis. If you’re experiencing symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome, call Tarpon Interventional Pain & Spine Care or schedule an appointment online today.