What is complex regional pain syndrome?
According to Stanford Medicine, complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS, is a severely disabling condition usually affecting the limbs after injury or surgery. Symptoms include severe pain, swelling, loss of range of motion, temperature changes, and changes in the skin. While CRPS can occur anywhere in the body, it usually affects an arm, leg, hand, or foot.
Who can get CRPS?
CRPS is 3-4 times more common in females than in males and usually affects adults between the age of 30-70 years old. CRPS rarely occurs in children and/or adolescents. An estimated 200,000 patients experience CRPS in the USA. According to Stanford Medicine, CRPS most often follows trauma, such as a fracture or amputation. Still, it can even occur after a minor injury, like a sprained ankle.
How is CRPS diagnosed?
CRPS is clinically diagnosed by a pain doctor using the Budapest Criteria. Symptoms can include severe pain, discoloration of the leg/hands and temperatures changes. You may also experience hair/nail changes in the limb involved and immobility or tremors of the limb involved.
Diagnosis and treatment are key
“CRPS is one of the most painful conditions we deal with in the pain management field,” stated Dr. Mbuvah of CMC Pain Management, “it causes so much suffering if left untreated.” Doctors may use a bone scan, sweat production test, X-Ray and/or MRI machines to diagnose CRPS.
Treatment options for CRPS
While there is no specific cure for CRPS, Dr. Mbuvah of CMC Pain Management states “we can alleviate the symptoms through physical therapy, occupational therapy, and a number of pain procedures. The main procedures are spinal cord stimulation, dorsal root ganglion stimulation and peripheral nerve stimulation. The goal is to cut off the pain signals from the limb involved. Therefore, preventing them from reaching the brain where they are processed as pain.”
The psychological aspect of CRPS
CRPS can be very isolating. Therefore, psychotherapy is an important component of treatment. When therapeutic efforts fail to work, a pain doctor may offer medications to relieve pain. Such medications can include nerve pain medicines, topical creams, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Opioids (oral and intrathecal pain pumps) may be considered as a last resort.