Facts on Complex Regional Pain Syndrome


Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), otherwise known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSDS) or Causalgia, is a chronic pain condition that occurs as a result of an injury or procedure. According to the McGill Pain Index, it is one of the most extreme pain disorders with the primary system being constant severe pain that gets worse instead of better over time.

Little Is Known About CRPS

CRPS is not well understood by physicians, patients or their families. Some people may experience moderate pain while others suffer from severe pain as well as changes in the temperature or color of the skin, intense burning, sweating, swelling and skin sensitivity. In rare cases, no pain is present at all.

CRPS may be due to a malfunction of the nervous system. Approximately five percent of all nerve injuries may result in CRPS, which occurs when the nerves malfunction and send constant pain signals to the brain. It usually occurs after a medical procedure or an accident/injury.

It is not always easy to diagnosis CRPS. According to the RSDSA, patients will see an estimated five doctors before receiving a diagnosis. Symptoms are two to three times more likely to appear in females than males. Although the average age for CRPS is 42, children as young as three can suffer from the condition.

Research and A Recent Study

One study found that CRPS interfered with a person’s ability to work (62% disability rate), sleep (96%), be mobile (86%), and care for themselves (57%). Another study of 190 patients with CRPS stated that 11% of patients had widespread pain that reportedly impaired their life. Additional symptoms were reported as lower back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and headaches.

Research shows that 3.8% of people who experience a wrist fracture may develop CRPS. A prediction model was established using pain, reaction time, swelling and associated pain to determine which patients would develop CRPS. It found that patients with a pain score of five or more were more at risk of developing the condition.

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