CRPS Facts & Information
Potential causes of CRPS range from minor injuries, such as a sprain, to severe injuries, such as damage to a nerve. Even relatively long periods of immobility, such as would occur with a broken leg, can result in CRPS.
The symptoms of CRPS frequently include severe burning pain and extreme sensitivity to touch in the area of the injury. Swelling, excessive sweating, and changes in the bone and skin tissue may also occur. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to seek early intervention.
The nation’s leader in pain management, National Spine & Pain Centers has board-certified doctors who are highly skilled in accurately diagnosing CRPS and customizing non-surgical treatment plans that offer lasting relief.
How & Why Does CRPS Develop?
CRPS, also referred to as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and Causalgia, is usually caused by an injury to the bones, joints, tissue, or nerves. The original injury can be severe, such as a broken bone, or minor, such as a sprain. In the case of an injury, CRPS symptoms may not appear right away.As described above, these symptoms can result in extreme discomfort. Stress often increases the severity of pain. As with any injury or condition, paying attention to the messages your body sends you and seeking treatment from knowledgeable medical professionals is critical.
It most often occurs in adults between the ages 20-40 and generally affects women more than men.
CRPS can result from several different causes. Research suggests that the symptoms may result from an injured nerve or nerves. The nerves send normal pain signals that pass through the spinal cord and are then transmitted to the brain. The problems occur because the spinal cord begins to send confusing signals to the brain, as well as to the injured area itself.
These confused signals interfere with normal blood flow and sensory signals resulting in extreme pain. In some cases, an immune response is triggered causing sweating, redness, inflammation, warmth, and/or muscle spasms.
Symptoms may spread upward from the initial injury site (e.g. hand to shoulder) and may be heightened by emotional stress. The unrelenting pain causes many people extreme emotional and physical duress and, left untreated, can lead to permanent changes in muscle and bone. Early detection and treatment are very much needed. Common symptoms include:
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of motion
- Abnormal sweating
- Tenderness and stiffness in joints
- Extreme sensitivity to even mild stimuli, such as clothing or a light touch
- Warm, red-looking skin at the injured area initially, changing to cool, bluish-looking skin later
Proper diagnosis starts with an experienced pain management doctor. The type of pain that you may have with CRPS can be similar to the symptoms of several types of disorders. Accurately determining the correct source of your pain is critical to successful treatment. Diagnosis involves the following:
- Begins with a thorough clinical evaluation
- Including a complete medical history, analysis of your symptoms, and physical examination
- Testing may include x-rays, MRI and/or CT scans, and electro-diagnosis (EMG)
- These advanced diagnostic techniques definitively pinpoint the source of pain