Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition that typically affects the distal limbs, such as an arm or a leg. CRPS is characterized by pain that is seemingly disproportionate to the degree of injury that initially triggered the condition. This syndrome shows variable progression over time. CRPS is estimated to affect between 5 and 26 per 100,000 per year. The incidence is highest amongst female who are post-menopausal.
There are two types of CRPS. CRPS Type 1 occurs after an injury or illness without evidence of peripheral nerve injury. CRPS Type 2, also known as Causalgia, occurs after a nerve injury is present in the affected limb. The onset of symptoms may occur 4-6 weeks after an inciting event.
WHAT CAUSES COMPLEX REGIONAL PAIN SYNDROME?
The exact cause of CRPS is not well understood, but typically occurs after injury or trauma to the affected limb, such as a fracture, blunt trauma, sprain, or surgery. However, no precipitating factors are identified in up to 10% of patients.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COMPLEX REGIONAL PAIN SYNDROME?
Changes in the affected limb that may include:
- Pain: described as burning, stinging, tearing that may be exacerbated by contact, limb movement, temperature variation, or stress
- Sensitivity to touch or temperature
- Motor impairments
- Changes in color, temperature, or texture
- Abnormal sweating
- Abnormal hair growth
- Increased or decreased nail growth
HOW IS COMPLEX REGIONAL PAIN SYNDROME DIAGNOSED?
- Review of medical history and physical examination
- Imaging modalities to rule out other possible causes
HOW IS COMPLEX REGIONAL PAIN SYNDROME TREATED?
Treatment is often a multi-disciplinary approach that may include:
- Over-the-counter or prescription medications
- Physical therapy
- Sympathetic Nerve Block Injections
- Spinal Cord Stimulator
- Psychological counseling
While there is no cure for CRPS, early diagnosis and treatment can help to manage the symptoms and improve overall quality of life.