Alternative/Complementary Treatments for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)


What is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)?

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also called reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS), is a type of chronic pain condition. It typically occurs after an injury and affects one limb (arm, leg, hand or foot). Though complex regional pain syndrome is not yet completely understood, it is believed that CRPS develops when the central or peripheral nervous system is damaged or malfunctions. It may also be caused by an immune system response. Treatment for complex regional pain syndrome can be complex. Oftentimes, an individually tailored combination of treatments is most effective.

Alternative/Complementary treatments

Alternative or complementary treatments are often used in conjunction with conventional medical treatments of CRPS. A combination of conventional medical treatment, alternative/complementary treatment, at-home treatment and medication often provides the best results. An individual with CRPS should consult a health care professional to determine the best combination of treatments based on their individual symptoms.


Biofeedback techniques often reduce pain associated with CRPS by changing physiological activity. During a biofeedback session, sensors are placed on an individual’s body; these sensors provide valuable digital physiological data to a health care professional. The goal of biofeedback is to make individuals highly aware of their body to relax their body and reduce their pain.


Acupuncture involves strategically placed tiny needles on the body to treat pain. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that is associated with pain reduction.

Massage therapy

Massage therapy relaxes the body, relieves muscle inflammation and decreases anxiety and depression. However, a deep tissue massage close to the area affected by complex regional pain syndrome can result in increased pain. A hot stone massage may work best to reduce CRPS pain. Prior to receiving a massage, an individual with CRPS should consult with a massage therapist to determine if this type of therapy would be beneficial for their condition.

Psychological-based therapies

Psychological-based therapies address psychological symptoms that may occur with a CRPS diagnosis, such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychological symptoms often heighten the perception of pain; therefore, psychological treatment is often an effective coping tool.


Hypnosis (led by a trained health care professional) works to change an individual’s sensations, thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Hypnosis may help individuals manage anxiety, pain levels and behaviors, resulting in decreased emotional stress and lower levels of physical pain.

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