CRPS is a challenging condition that causes a lot of pain to the person’s foot, leg, hand, or arm. In most cases, it occurs after a serious injury like a bone fracture. In some extreme cases, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome can also affect other parts of the body.
The symptoms of CRPS can be severe or mild. In some cases, they might manifest for years, while some people feel them for a couple of months. The exact cause of this condition is still unclear, but new treatments for CRPS are being developed each year.
In the past, CRPS was also called RSD or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. It affects people differently, and patients also respond to treatment with different success.
Injuries associated with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
In most cases, people who develop CRPS start feeling the symptoms a month after the injury. Some of the most common injuries that lead to CRPS include:
- Deep cuts
- Burn wounds
- Bone fractures
- Invasive surgeries
Most people regularly recover from these injuries. However, some develop CRPS and the pain associated with it that can last a long time. The pain usually affects the injured area but can also spread to a wider area of the limb.
For example, some people injured fingers on their leg but ended up with CRPS pain that affected their whole leg. In some cases, CRPS pain can spread to other limbs or body parts.
Disease mechanisms of CRPS
Like we mentioned, the real underlying cause of CRPS is still unknown. However, some of the triggering factors that lead to this disease include:
- Many people who suffer from CRPS have Sympathetic Nervous Systems Dysfunction, but not all of them.
- CRPS-caused swelling is often different from regular swelling or redness. It is believed that the nerves alter the chemicals that affect the injured area.
- Blood vessels and restricted blood flow caused by CRPS can reduce tissue oxygen and cause pain.
- Some doctors believe that CRPS can be triggered by the stress patients suffer from after experiencing a traumatic event (injury).
- In some cases, patients with CRPS can suffer from Somatic Nervous System Dysfunction.
Common symptoms of CRPS
Some of the typical symptoms of this conditions are:
- Sudden pain that’s not caused by anything
- Pain caused by some activity
- Pain caused by normal contact
- Burning sensation in the affected area
- Impaired muscle movement or strengths
- Joint stiffness
- Increased sweating
- Increased hair or nail growth
- Skin changes (color, swelling, temperature, & feel)
- Spasms and tremors
- Mirror pain (feeling the same pain on the other limb)
In some cases, people suffering from this condition feel a single symptom. However, many people also have a combination of symptoms manifesting at different times.
How is CRPS diagnosed?
There are still no accurate tests that can diagnose CRPS. Physicians diagnose this condition by looking at the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and any injuries related to the affected area. It’s an extensive process of narrowing down symptoms and causes to conclude whether it’s, in fact, CRPS.
Doctors will often order various tests like MRI scans, CT, X-rays, bone scans, and even blood tests to confirm that the symptoms aren’t the cause of some other illness. However, a lot of medical professionals aren’t familiar with CRPS.
They will need a lot of time to diagnose it or mistake it for another condition. That’s why it’s essential to go to specialized health professionals that work with CRPS and are better at recognizing the condition. Professionals that do this are:
- Occupational therapists
Common ways for treating CRPS
You can’t cure CRPS instantly with a simple procedure. There are a variety of approaches that help reduce pain and improve movement. Pain medications are common and are prescribed by doctors to improve the quality of life while patients undergo treatment.
Occupational therapy and physiotherapy are also common to help reduce swelling and pain. At first, they involve gentle movements, exercises for strengthening muscles, and functional movements. There are also different combinations of intervention and implant therapy that calm down the nerves of the affected area.
CRPS is a very difficult condition that can reduce the quality of life. It’s important to visit an experienced physician that can diagnose it and prescribe the proper treatment to start alleviating symptoms. Patients who start treatment early on are less likely to develop intense symptoms.