Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, is a form of chronic pain that often develops after an injury. The pain experienced is often long-term and intense, and tends to get worse over time instead of getting better. This condition often affects the arms, legs, hands or feet and can spread to nearby areas as it progresses. In addition to pain, patients may also experience swelling, redness and skin sensitivity. The exact cause of complex regional pain syndrome is unknown however it may be linked to emotional stress and a sympathetic nervous system.

Symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

In addition to chronic and severe pain, the symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome may also include:

  • Swelling
  • Throbbing in the affected area
  • Tenderness and sensitivity
  • Changes in skin color
  • Sweating
  • Change in skin texture
  • Joint stiffness and swelling

Cause of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

While the exact cause of complex regional pain syndrome is unknown, one theory suggests that it may be due to problems in the central and peripheral nervous systems. It is also believed to be caused by an inappropriate inflammatory response in the body. People with complex regional pain syndrome, may have pain or an injury that triggers an immune response, which leads to the characteristic inflammatory symptoms of redness, warmth, and swelling in the affected area. Emotional stress may also increase the symptoms.

Diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome is often diagnosed by ruling out other medical or underlying conditions. After a full physical examination is performed, the following diagnostic tests may also be administered:

  • X-rays
  • Bone scan
  • MRI scan
  • Blood tests

Treatment of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

While there is no cure for this condition, there are several treatment options that may be used to relieve symptoms. The goal of most treatments is to reduce swelling and pain. Types of medication may include:

  • Analgesics
  • Antidepressants
  • Corticosteroids
  • Opioids
  • Ibuprofen

Additional treatment methods may include physical therapy, topical analgesics,spinal cord stimulation and a sympathetic nerve block. Patients may be prescribed a combination of these treatments in order to achieve effective pain relief.

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