More About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

istock 847976942 In June’s first blog, we introduced complex regional pain syndrome, a mysterious condition that causes chronic pain usually in an arm or leg. We discussed symptoms and some basics of CRPS. In June’s second blog, let’s get into some more detail of this chronic pain producer and what can be done by the team at Summit Healthcare Pain Clinic to help. 

What causes complex regional pain syndrome? 

This isn’t a common condition, which is good because it’s not well understood. It is thought to be triggered by an injury to or an abnormality of the peripheral and central nervous systems. This occurs after trauma or another type of injury. 

There are two types of CRPS. Both have similar symptoms, but it’s thought the causes are different. 

  •     Type 1 — This is the type of CRPS in about 90 percent of patients. Also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), type 1 CRPS occurs after an illness or injury that did not directly damage the nerves in the affected limb.
  •     Type 2 — This type of CRPS has similar symptoms, but it occurs after the person has suffered a distinct nerve injury.

CRPS occurs after forceful trauma to an arm or leg, such as a fracture. It can also follow surgery, heart attacks, infections, even a sprained ankle. It is a mystery, however, as to why one person develops CRPS while another doesn’t. It’s thought there is dysfunctional interaction between the central and peripheral nervous systems, leading to overactive inflammatory responses. 

How does Dr. Trujillo treat CRPS? 

It appears that early intervention has the most success treating CRPS. Medications used can range from antidepressants and anticonvulsants to nerve-blocking medications and corticosteroids. 

From there, various therapies can be used. The success varies with the patient, so different methods may be used and then replaced if not effective: 

  •     Heat therapy — Applying heat to the skin that feels cool.
  •     Topical analgesics — Analgesics, such as lidocaine cream, can reduce hypersensitivity.
  •     Physical therapy — Early physical therapy can decrease pain and maintain range of motion.
  •     Mirror therapy — This uses a mirror to help trick the brain. The patient sits in front of a mirror and moves the healthy limb, and the brain perceives this (due to the reverse image of the mirror) as the limb affect by CRPS.
  •     TENS — Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is applied to active nerve endings.
  •     Biofeedback — This involves helping you learn techniques to better control your body, which helps you relax and can relieve pain.
  •     Spinal cord stimulation — Electrodes are inserted along the spinal cord and can stop some of the pain messages being sent to the brain.
  •     Pain pumps — These inserted pumps deliver medication directly into the spinal cord fluid.
  •     Acupuncture — This form of treatment uses long, very thin needles to help stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissues to increase blood flow and relieve pain.

If you have symptoms of CRPS, please give Dr. Trujillo a call at Summit Healthcare Pain Clinic, (855) 768-4968, to schedule an appointment.

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