Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Complex regional Pain Syndrome is a chronic condition characterize by pain that can affect any part of the body. It usually affects the limbs, such as your arms and legs and is most often present after one has sustained injury such as a stroke, surgery or even a heart attack.

The cause of CRPS is not fully understood but it is believed to be cause by damage to the peripheral and central nervous systems. Symptoms of CRPS is characterized by excessive pain and changes to the skin color, temperature and swelling in the affected area. The pain experience is usually much stronger than one would expect for the type of injury sustained. The intensity of the pain also gets worst over time.  The symptoms experience are broken down into three stages as described below.

Stage 1 (lasts 1 to 3 months):

Changes in skin temperature is seen, switching between warm or cold, Faster growth of nails and hair are common. Muscle spasms and joint pain, Severe burning, aching pain that worsens with the slightest touch. The skin also slowly becomes blotchy, purple, pale, or red; thin and shiny; swollen; more sweaty

Stage 2 (lasts 3 to 6 months):

Continued changes in the skin can be seen. The nails cracked and break more easily, the pain becomes worse and slower hair growth is seen. Stiff joints and weak muscles are common

Stage 3 (irreversible changes can be seen)

There is limited movement in limb because of the tightened muscles and tendons (contracture). Muscle wasting is common.

Anyone can get CRPS, but it is more common in women.  Though there is currently no cure for CRPS, treatment by a qualified pain management professional can be life changing. Treatment should involve a comprehensive multimodal approach which include medication (analgesic, narcotics, corticosteroids, antidepressant and anti-seizure medications), interventions (stellate and lumbar sympathetic blocks) as well as spinal cord stimulation.