Complex Regional Pain Syndrome


Pain resulting from a malfunction of the peripheral and central nervous system is known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), the condition may develop after an injury, surgery, or medical emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke. At present, there are two classifications for this disease: CRPS-I and CRPS-II. Confirmed nerve injuries are usually diagnosed with CRPS-II, while those who are not may be considered “CRPS-I.” Varying treatment methods are used to treat this condition based upon the severity and duration of symptoms. Patients afflicted with CRPS often find relief from a combination of conservative, alternative, and interventional pain therapies.


Presently, it isn’t known how CRPS originates in the body; some doctors have attributed the cause to an abnormal inflammation or nerve dysfunction in the body. More than 90 percent of CRPS cases seem to be accompanied by a medical history of injury or trauma according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Some of these traumas or injuries include fractures, sprains, strains, soft tissue injuries, burns, lacerations, or limb immobilizations. Some have suggested genetics may play a part; however, the data is limited to support this theory. It is important to note, CRPS sometimes occurs after an internal injury, blood vessel problem, entrapment of nerves, or an infection.


A constant moderate to severe burning sensation resembling pins and needles in a specific limb is the most commonly described symptom associated with CRPS. Some have experienced stiffness in affected joints, limited mobility in the affected body part and intermittent changes in the temperature, texture, and color of a patient’s skin. Other symptoms include abnormal sweating patterns and changes in nail and hair growth. Pain has been known to travel to various parts of the body and impacting blood flow and circulation.


Various interventional pain therapies are available to treat the pain caused by CRPS. Common treatment options include over-the-counter and prescription pain medications, topical anesthetic creams, oral corticosteroids, and Botox injections. Relatively severe pain may be treated with sympathetic nerve blocks, or different types of neural stimulators such as spinal cord stimulation. The team at The Spine & Pain Center may also recommend additional alternative, minimally invasive therapies used to help control CRPS pain.