our Unexplained Pain Isn't in Your Head, It May Be in Your Nerves (RSD)

When you have pain, you want a clear cut diagnosis. Even if you continue to experience discomfort and dysfunction, it’s comforting in some ways to be able to define the cause and assign blame. If you have reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), also called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), such a clear diagnosis is hard to get.

That’s because RSD causes chronic, intense pain that’s out of proportion to the severity of an injury, if an injury can even be identified. Instead of your pain healing with time, it gets worse. Although some medical professionals may tell you the pain is all in your head or assume you’re exaggerating your symptoms, you’re not. You have a very real condition that involves your nervous system.

At Tarpon Interventional Pain & Spine Care with offices in West and North Plano, Texas, we take your pain and symptoms seriously. We work with you to accurately diagnose your condition and help you manage chronic pain.

RDS is a rare condition, but does affect some 200,000 people in the United States. Here’s what to know about RSD.

What symptoms suggest RSD?

Pain symptoms of RSD usually affect the hands, feet, arms, and legs. You’ll have burning, aching, and deep pain and your skin feels extra sensitive to touch.

Some patients notice their skin color changes — they get blotchy, pale, or reddish. The skin texture may also change, becoming shiny, thin, and extra sweaty. Hair and nail growth patterns alter. Affected joints swell and feel stiff. In some cases, you may have decreased ability to move the part of your body feeling pain.

These symptoms can’t easily be traced to a condition, which is why you may encounter a health care provider who dismisses your concerns as being “all in your head.”

The likely cause of RSD symptoms

The definitive cause of RSD remains unknown. Researchers believe it has to do with malfunction in your sympathetic nervous system.

RSD often occurs after you’ve experienced trauma, like a sprain, fracture, or certain brain injuries. People can develop RSD after surgery or following damage to blood vessels and nerves, too. What makes RSD hard to diagnose is that your symptoms seem disproportionate to the injury or procedure you experienced. Your body doesn’t get better — your pain worsens with time.

How do I get an accurate diagnosis?

RSD can’t be easily diagnosed with a blood test or X-ray. While screenings like MRI or nerve conduction tests can help inform your diagnosis, your doctor determines you have RSD by ruling out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.

It’s important to seek an answer for your pain and not just let your symptoms be dismissed as a psychological manifestation. Early diagnosis helps you get the treatments you need to manage the condition. At Tarpon Interventional Pain & Spine Care, we take your pain seriously and do everything possible to get you the care you need.

Your medical team customizes your treatment and may try several strategies to help you manage your symptoms. Not all treatments work for every case. Your plan may include any combination of interventions like physical therapy, electrical nerve stimulation, muscle relaxants, nerve blocks, and corticosteroids.

Ultimately, the goal is to help you live as normal and pain-free of a life as possible. If you’re experiencing unexplained pain, seek help from the team at Tarpon Interventional Pain & Spine Care. Call one of the offices of Tarpon Interventional Pain & Spine Care to set up your appointment or use the online tool to schedule.

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