Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (aka: Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) is an uncommon form of chronic pain that usually affects limbs, though the treatment, in this case, involves the spine. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) typically develops after an injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack. One of the key indicators of CRPS is that the pain is out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury or illness.
While doctors have yet to identify the root cause(s) of CRPS, there are many things we do know about this condition:
The symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome often vary in both duration and severity. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: decreased mobility, burning pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints, changes in nail or hair growth and changes in skin temperature or texture. Some patients experience these symptoms as chronic, mild pain, while others might feel extreme pain in short bursts that increase in frequency with time.
Early stage CRPS can be difficult to accurately diagnose, because symptoms can be relatively mild. Detailed observation over time allows doctors to make a positive diagnosis.
While there is no quick “cure” for CRPS, patients can achieve significantly reduced pain through proven medical techniques. Early stage treatments for CRPS include physical therapy, drug treatment, psychotherapy, pain medications, corticosteroids, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications and diagnostic blocks, which are simple injections performed to diagnose the cause of pain.
Some patients may have heard or read about a procedure called surgical sympathectomy. While once common, this procedure has been nearly abandoned by modern medical practitioners because it is known to destroy nerves in the sympathetic nervous system. In addition, many physicians believe it actually makes CRPS worse.
The best option for treating CRPS today is Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS). A minimally-invasive procedure, SCS is effective, non-destructive and easily reversible.
SCS blocks the pain associated with CRPS and replaces it with a pleasant feeling. So, you not only feel less pain, you actually feel better. And, best of all, you, as the patient, are always in total control of the level of your pain relief.