Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Disorder (RSD)

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) represent the same condition. CRPS is many times a severely painful and debilitating condition. CRPS is known to have psychological, as well as physical components; however, it is not understood how that factors into the development of the condition.

While the symptoms of CRPS can vary from patient to patient, most have severe pain, sensitivity, skin changes and swelling that start in an extremity and may spread to encompass more of the body. It occurs more commonly in women. It may be associated with a minor injury such as a sprained ankle with over-reaction of the body’s nervous system to that minor injury.

Physicians diagnose CRPS based on physical examination, patient symptomology and whether there was some sort of event that triggered the condition. A diagnosis of CRPS is made by ruling out other causes for the symptoms. There is no specific blood test to confirm the diagnosis or absence of CRPS; however some imaging tests such as bone scans can be helpful in diagnosis.

It is very important that a correct diagnosis be made early, because that is when treatment can be the most effective. Because the disorder affects so many different body systems, physicians often use a multi-disciplinary approach when treating CRPS patients. An Interventional Pain Management Specialist can assist the patient with effective therapies for managing the pain and discomfort caused by CRPS. These can involve oral medications, injections, sympathetic nerve blocks and the implantation of Spinal Cord Stimulators to help control pain. A Physical Therapist can assist with therapies to help the patient move the affected limb and to tolerate more stimuli. A Psychiatrist/Psychologist can provide emotional support and counseling and treatment for depression and anxiety associated with the disease.

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