Understanding & Treatment Options for
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition that affects the peripheral and nervous systems after traumatic injuries such as a fracture, amputation, stroke or heart attack. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord while the peripheral nervous system controls nerve signals from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. The chronic pain can attack anywhere on the body but it usually affects an arm, leg, hand or foot. If you are experiencing CRPS symptoms, schedule a consultation online today with one of our premier podiatrists in South Florida to explore proper treatment.
What Causes Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
The cause of complex regional pain syndrome is unknown but it is believed to be caused by damage to the peripheral and nervous systems after trauma, injury or illness. Not everyone with trauma or injury will develop CRPS but symptoms usually occur after an injury or surgery. The “short circuit” theory conveys that the damage on the nerves causes hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system which controls blood flow, sensation, and temperature.
Symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
The degree of pain caused by complex regional pain syndrome is described to be much more severe than the initial injury. Symptoms may vary for every individual and are characterized by:
- Decreased mobility
- Prolonged and excessive pain
- Changes in hair and nail growth
- Changes in skin color, texture and temperature
- Muscle spasms, tremor, weakness, and atrophy (loss)
- Joint swelling, stiffness, and damage in the affected area
- Continuous burning and throbbing pain in the affected area
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Treatment
There is no cure for complex regional pain syndrome but early diagnosis and treatment can lead to remission. Conventional treatments for CRPS include:
- Biofeedback: Increased body awareness and relaxation techniques to help with pain relief.
- Topical analgesics: Topical treatments such as capsaicin or lidocaine cream may reduce hypersensitivity,
- Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), oral corticosteroids, anti-depressants, blood pressure medications, anticonvulsants, and opioid analgesics to relieve symptoms.
- Injection therapy: Injecting an anesthetic (numbing medicine) near the affected sympathetic nerves can reduce symptoms. This is recommended early in the course of CRPS in order to avoid progression.
- Physical therapy: Gentle and guided exercising of the affected limbs help decrease pain and improve range of motion and strength.
- Heat therapy: Applying heat may offer relief of swelling and discomfort on the skin that feels cold.
If nonsurgical treatment fails, there are surgical procedures that may help reduce symptoms such as:
- Spinal cord stimulator: Tiny electrodes are implanted along the spine and deliver mild electric impulses to the affected nerves.
- Pain pump implantation: A small device that delivers pain medication to the spinal cord is implanted near the abdomen.
How to Prevention Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
These steps might help you reduce the risk of developing complex regional pain syndrome:
- Taking vitamin C after trauma: Studies have shown that people who took a daily minimum dose of 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C after a fracture had a lower risk of complex regional pain syndrome compared with those who didn't take vitamin C.
- Early mobilization after trauma: Research shows that people who get out of bed and walk around soon after a stroke lower their risk of complex regional pain syndrome.
It is important to treat complex regional pain syndrome early. If you are experiencing CRPS symptoms, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at 305.853.5151 with one of our premier podiatrists in South Florida to explore the proper CRPS treatment for you.
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