What is Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS

CPRS - Complex Regional Pain SyndromeChronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a nerve disorder that is the source of a variety of problems. Also known as RSD, CRPS is caused by physical injury, most often in the extremities. Although uncommon, CRPS is a serious problem and is not always recognized. The disorder is not widely known, so being aware of the symptoms is a great benefit to anyone at risk. If you experience an injury, being able to recognize CRPS early will greatly improve your chances of getting successful treatment.

CRPS varies in the degree to which it affects you, but there are common symptoms. Edema, or a purple coloration coupled with swelling is prevalent. Strange sensations often accompany this disorder and are usually only found in the hands and feet, especially if these are the sites of the initial injury. Chronic pain is the worst symptom and can often be mistaken for an injury that refuses to heal, although this is not the case.

While the exact causes of CRPS are not known, it is known that it is a disorder of the sympathetic nervous system. One way to explain this is that your brain constantly thinks you are being injured and makes you feel the pain and even swelling associated with an injury. Your nerves are stuck in a loop of reacting to trauma that is no longer there. Sensations vary greatly but are often difficult to describe. Skin sensations are often overactive and unexpected. Even light touch could be very painful. Temperatures can feel very extreme. Textures can cause a variety of strange sensations such as a blanket’s touch feeling like a massive sunburn or a pet’s fur feeling like a thousand needles.

Other symptoms include initial hair loss followed by rapid hair growth that often grows back thicker than it was before.  The symptoms are commonly isolated to the hand or foot that was initially injured, though in some cases, the disorder can spread and even jump to other extremities. Unfortunately, because CRPS is not widely recognized and the symptoms are varied, it is often misdiagnosed for months or years.

There is no cure for CRPS but there are treatments that can help reduce the effects. Early diagnosis greatly improves the results of treatment, so it is important to be aware that CRPS exists. Treatments include nerve blocks, physical therapy and medications, including pain medications for chronic pain. Compounded creams are available to help mitigate the effects of extreme skin sensitivity but they are often expensive and only available through mail order pharmacies. Additionally any treatments given are usually variable and unpredictable in effectiveness.

There is currently no way to predict if an injury will lead to the onset of CRPS. Being aware of the existence of CRPS and spreading that awareness can help you get an early diagnosis or even help in the diagnosis of a mysterious condition already in effect.