Everything you Need to Know about CRPS

CRPS stands for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, and just like many other ailments of the modern day world, CRPS is becoming a new normal for people at a very high rate. This painful ailment is also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Most of the doctors and scientists who are conducting research on this ailment consider it to be neuro-immune disease. So, in this blog post, we are going to discuss CRPS in a detailed manner so that you can get a basic understanding about this condition that is becoming more common in every part of the world.

What is CRPS?

CRPS or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome can be explained as a chronic pain condition which lasts for more than six months and affects the arms, legs, hands, or feet, commonly occurring after an injury. The main cause of CRPS is believed to be damage to the peripheral and central nervous system. It’s important to understand that both the brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system. The nerve sending signals from the brain and spinal cord to the body, however, are a part of the peripheral nervous system. Some of the most common symptom of CRPS are severe pain, change in skin color, swelling in the affected area.

There are basically two types of CRPS

  • CRPS-I
  • CRPS-II

If a nerve injury is confirmed in the patient then it is classified as CRPS-I and if there is no known nerve injury the patient is then classified as CRPS-II. The CRPS-I was previously known as Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome. Though the presence of known nerve injury may differentiate the types of CRPS, it doesn’t necessarily make a difference when it comes to the treatments used.

What are the common symptoms of CRPS?

The most common symptom of CRPS includes severe and constant pain which is mostly described as a sensation of burning and electrical shock by the patients. If CRPS happens after an injury then the pain associated with the ailment can be severe. The affected part of the body can become hypersensitive to the point that touch and even temperature change increases the pain. The mobility of the CRPS patient also decreases as it becomes difficult for the patient to move the affected part. Following are some of the most common symptoms of CRPS:-

  • Skin temperature changes
  • Change in skin color
  • Sweating
  • Changes in finger and toenails
  • Thin skin texture
  • Painful and stiff joints
  • Strange movement in the limb
  • Swelling in the affected part

How to diagnose CRPS?

Before beginning the treatment of CRPS it is necessary to confirm its existence through proper diagnosis. The most basic diagnosis method includes physical checkup and analysis of your medical history. Unfortunately, there is no one test to diagnose CRPS so combinations of evaluations are used to get a bigger picture and ultimately make the diagnosis if it makes sense . The following diagnostic methods are commonly used in order to come to reach a conclusion:

Bone scan- With the help of bone scanning, doctors try to find the changes in the bone. By injecting a radioactive substance in your veins, the doctor is able to see your bones with the help of a special camera.

Sympathetic nervous system test- This is one of the most important tests used for the diagnosis of CRPS as it helps the doctor to find disturbances in your sympathetic nervous system. Thermography is used in this test in order to know the skin temperature and understand the blood flow of the area of concern. Along with this, there are several other tests conducted in order to know the amount of sweat on both limbs. If the doctors find uneven results then it indicates complex regional pain syndrome.

X-ray- X-ray is also an important test conducted to find the clues of CRPS. During the later phase of this ailment, your bones start losing minerals and that can be easily identified with the help of X-ray tests.

MRI- MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging and it is used by doctors to find changes in the tissues. This can give both diagnostic information initially and help with treatments along the way.

What is the treatment of CRPS?

There is very little defined treatment for CRPS and that’s what makes this ailment so difficult. The best treatment plans are designed by doctors who specialize and have great understanding of this complex condition. Early treatment is the most effective way to manage CRPS in order to slow progression and prevent more severe and less tolerable pain in later phases. The most ideal way to find the right treatment for CRPS is to visit a CRPS pain treatment center.

Following are the most common treatment options for CRPS:-

Physical Therapy– Physical therapy is a treatment process is considered to be one of the most reliable and effective treatment options in case of CRPS. With the help of proper physical therapy, you can enhance the blood flow, regain range of movement and prevent the onset of muscle wastage and contortion of bones. Exercise is not a good option in the case of CRPS as it will further increase the pain, making a physical therapist an important member of your treatment team.

Psychotherapy– The various severe symptoms of CRPS can further lead to serious mental conditions like anxiety and depression. With these co-occurring conditions, rehabilitation for CRPS becomes much more difficult and that’s where counseling helps. Patients with chronic pain tend to lose hope for the future, making them less invested in their treatment and any treatment less likely to help. Psychotherapy can help teach coping mechanisms and strategies to both help the pain and live happier lives.

Medication – There is no single medication which can treat CRPS and that’s why most of the doctors use a mix of medication in order to deal with the various symptoms of CRPS. Following are some of the most common medications used in CRPS:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Different types of anticonvulsants like gabapentin
  • Use of topical cream and patches in order to minimize the pain
  • Botulinum toxin injections
  • Different types of opioids
  • N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonists

If you think that you are suffering from CRPS, it is important that you consult your doctor and work together to get a diagnosis for your pain. With a diagnosis, the best treatment options for you can be explored to find a regimen that works for you individually. In many cases, consulting a treatment center that specializes in CRPS is a great option. CRPS can be treated more effectively if detected at an early stage because with the advancement of time, the symptoms of CRPS becomes severe.