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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition that typically affects one limb (arm, leg, hand or foot) following an injury or trauma. It is characterized by continuous or fluctuating pain, swelling, and changes in skin temperature and color.

Causes of CRPS

CRPS occurs when the nervous system malfunctions after an injury or trauma. The exact cause of this malfunction is not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.

Symptoms of CRPS

The symptoms of CRPS can vary in severity and duration, but often include:

  • Continuous or fluctuating pain that is disproportionate to the severity of the injury or trauma
  • Swelling and stiffness in the affected limb
  • Changes in skin temperature and color (often with the skin becoming warm and red initially, and then cool and blue later on)
  • Changes in hair and nail growth
  • Muscle weakness and spasms
  • Difficulty moving the affected limb
  • Sensitivity to touch or pressure

Treatment options for CRPS

The treatment of CRPS aims to relieve pain, improve function, and prevent or reverse the progression of the condition. Treatment options may include:

  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help to manage mild to moderate pain. In more severe cases, prescription medications may be necessary.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help to improve mobility, strength, and flexibility in the affected limb. It may also include desensitization exercises to reduce pain and sensitivity to touch.
  • Sympathetic nerve blocks: These injections target the sympathetic nervous system to help reduce pain and improve circulation in the affected limb.
  • Spinal cord stimulation: This procedure involves the placement of a small device under the skin that sends electrical impulses to the spinal cord to help reduce pain.
  • Psychological therapy: Psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or relaxation techniques, may be recommended to help manage the emotional impact of CRPS.