What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome)?

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also referred to as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD), is a chronic progressive disease characterized by severe pain, swelling, and changes in the skin. Experts believe that CRPS (or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome) occurs as a result of dysfunction in the central or peripheral nervous system.

CRPS (or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome) can strike at any age and affects both men and women, although most experts agree it is more common in young women.

What are the CRPS Symptoms (or RSD symptoms)?

The key CRPS symptom (or RSD symptom) is continuous, intense pain out of proportion to the severity of the injury (if an injury has occurred). This pain gets worse rather than better over time. CRPS (or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome) most often affects one of the extremities and is often accompanied by:

  • Burning pain
  • Increased skin sensitivity
  • Changes in skin temperature
  • Changes in skin color
  • Changes in skin texture
  • Changes in nail or hair growth patterns
  • Swelling or stiffness in affected joints
  • Motor disability

How does CRPS (or RSD) progress?

There are three stages of CRPS (or RSD):

Stage 1: CRPS (or RSD) begins as severe pain in a limb. The pain might be accompanied by swelling, sensitivity to touch and temperature, and some skin changes. Skin changes include drying and tearing. This stage of CRPS (or RSD) is thought to last from 1 to 3 months.

Stage 2: Stage two of CRPS (or RSD) lasts approximately 3-6 months. It is characterized by intensifying pain, swelling, decreased hair growth, cracked, brittle, grooved, or spotty nails, softened bones, stiff joints, and/or weak muscle tone.

Stage 3: CRPS (or RSD) patients experience limited movement in the affected limb and often irreversible skin damage. Pain becomes unyielding and may involve the entire limb or affected area. There may be muscle atrophy and involuntary contractions of the muscles or tendons that flex the joints.

What causes CRPS(or RSD)?

Doctors are not sure exactly what causes CRPS (or RSD). The most recent theories suggest that many cases of CRPS (or RSD) occur after a forceful trauma to an arm or leg, such as a gunshot wound, surgery, heart attacks, injections, fractures, and even sprained ankles. It is not well understood why these injuries sometimes trigger CRPS (or RSD).

What CRPS treatment (or RSD Treatment) options are available?

Dramatic improvement and even remission of CRPS (or RSD) are possible. CRPS treatment (or RSD Treatment) options include:

For additional information on Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome), please call 866-228-1108 to request an appointment with one of our Southeast Pain and Spine Care pain management providers or click to Request an Appointment.