Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
By Laurence Schubert APAM
What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a neurological malfunction where pain is heightened for an abnormal duration following injury. CRPS is poorly understood, and the exact cause of it is unknown. The pain is believed to be caused by abnormal inflammation process and/or nerve malfunction. CRPS can be differentiated into type I & type II. Type I usually occurs after a minor injury to an extremity (e.g., ankle sprain), whereas CRPS type II occurs after significant injury to a peripheral nerve.
What are the symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
- Localised pain disproportionate to the injury
- Increased swelling/re-occurrence of swelling
- Changes in skin temperature – very hot or cold
- Severe burning pain
- Increased sweating
- Discolouration of skin
Can Complex Regional Pain Syndrome be treated?
- Yes it can be. The condition is not very well understood, however there are a few key things you can do to reduce the damage of CRPS.
- Seek professional help ASAP – the quicker you treat CRPS, the quicker your recovery
- Early mobilisation – as written above, there may be vasomotor disturbances, so gentle mobilisation is strongly recommended as this will help regulate proper blood flow
- Motor imagery – mental processing of performing a movement without actually doing it. E.g. you imagine yourself complete a movement with the painful body part.
- Avoidance of surgery – When possible
I think I have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, what should I do?
Head to your GP/doctor as soon as you can, if the pain is unbearable then proceed to the emergency department. As written above, the quicker you seek assistance the more easily the condition is treated. Treatment for each person will vary, depending on the presentation of the syndrome.