complex regional pain syndromeComplex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition most often affecting one of the limbs, usually after an injury or trauma to that limb. CRPS, also known as RSD, is caused by damage done to the peripheral and central nervous systems. CRPS is characterized by prolonged or excessive pain and mild or dramatic changes in skin color, temperature, and/or swelling in the affected area. (Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke).

Complex regional pain syndrome can affect both men and women of any age, although it is most common in women. The average age of onset of CRPS is about 40. It is extremely rare in the elderly, and does not occur in children before the age of 5 and very rarely before the age of 10.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke lists the following as symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome:

  • The pain may feel like a burning or “pins and needles” sensation, or as if someone is squeezing the affected limb. The pain may spread to include the entire arm or leg, even though the precipitating injury might have been only to a finger or toe.
  • Changes in skin texture on the affected area; it may appear shiny and thin
  • Abnormal sweating pattern in the affected area or surrounding areas
  • Changes in nail and hair growth patterns
  • Stiffness in affected joints
  • Problems coordinating muscle movement, with decreased ability to move the affected body part, and
  • Abnormal movement in the affected limb, most often fixed abnormal posture (called dystonia) but also tremors in or jerking of the affected limb.

In more than 90 percent of CRPS cases, the condition is triggered by some form of trauma. Common causes of CRPS include:

  • Fractures
  • Sprains/strains
  • Soft tissue injury, such as burns, cuts, or bruises
  • Limb immobilization
  • Surgical/medical procedures

CRPS does not have a specific type of diagnostic testing. Each diagnosis depends on the individual and the severity of his or her symptoms. Running tests to rule out other symptoms such as arthritis or Lyme disease can be done. MRIs and bone scans can also be used to determine if a patient suffers from CRPS.

Common treatments for individuals with CRPS include:

  • Rehabilitation therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Medications
  • Sympathetic nerve block
  • Surgical sympathectomy
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Intrathecal drug pumps

Alternative treatments that have been used for CRPS are: behavior modification, acupuncture, relaxation techniques (such as biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided motion therapy), and chiropractic treatment.

Children and adolescents with CRPS generally have a better recovery than adults and offer a unique model for the study of chronic pain reversal. Scientists studying children with CRPS are investigating neuroplasticity and the biological processes that cause CRPS to occur, in the hopes of developing more effective therapies and accelerated recoveries for adults and children. (Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke).

Attorney Jim Brady and Associates has handled numerous RSD and CRPS cases. If you or a loved one suffers from complex regional pain syndrome due to a personal injury caused by the carelessness of another, please contact me at: 508-660-8888 or visit us on the web at: