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What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) describes an array of painful conditions that affect the extremities. CRPS symptoms are chronic, lasting more than six months at a time. 

Medical specialists and researchers don’t fully understand how CRPS works, but there are treatments that have proven effective.

The nervous system is an astonishing piece of bioengineering. Its complexity provides sensory, motor, and autonomic control for your brain. Still, it also makes it almost impossible to unravel, as there are billions of fine-tuned chemical reactions occurring every second.

To help you better understand CRPS, we asked our specialist at Foothill Pain Management to explain what CRPS is, what its causes are, and how sufferers can get relief.

CRPS 101

There are two types of CRPS. About 90% of the diagnoses are classified as CRPS, which has no known cause, as no nerve injury could be causing the pain.

CRPS-II, once known as causalgia, is caused by nerve injuries, even if the pain is disproportionate to the severity of the injury. Fractures, crushing force, amputations, and even indirect injuries such as heart attacks and sprains can cause CRPS-II.

Symptoms of CRPS include throbbing pain, sensitivity to touch or low temperatures, joint stiffness, thin skin, muscle loss, and tremors. These symptoms can change over time and may vary from person to person. In some cases, CRPS can spread from one limb to another.

Medications for CRPS

Medical specialists don’t yet know the direct origin of the syndrome, so for the time being, treatments are focused on symptoms management. 

Our experts at Foothill Pain Management may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers or opioid medications in carefully controlled doses to relieve your pain and discomfort.

In some cases, antidepressant medications relieve the pain, even if you’re not suffering from depression. Nerve block anesthetic injections can disrupt pain signals and prevent bone loss. 

Drug-free alternatives to managing CRPS

Drugs alone aren’t always the answer. Some patients benefit greatly from physical therapy as a way to prevent stiffness and reduce pain. Psychological counseling may also help, as it can teach them coping skills necessary for living with a condition that causes chronic pain. 

Other available therapies for CRPS include transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), spinal cord stimulation, drug pumps, biofeedback, and mirror therapy.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of CRPS, contact us to schedule an appointment. Our experts can diagnose you and put together a personalized treatment plan, so you get relief as soon as possible.

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