Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Southern Pain and Spine

Pain Management & Interventional Spine Specialist located in Gainesville, GA

Chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a rare, but serious and painful condition that affects the upper or lower extremities. An early diagnosis and treatment for complex regional pain syndrome may help improve outcomes. At Southern Pain and Spine in Gainesville, Georgia, Ankur Patel, DO, RPH, and the team specialize in diagnosing and treating complex regional pain syndrome. If you have severe pain that affects your hands, arms, feet, or legs, request a referral by calling the office or clicking the book online button today.

Complex Regional Pain Q&A

What is complex regional pain syndrome?

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a pain condition that causes severe, ongoing pain and inflammation following an injury to the arm or leg. The pain may be acute or chronic (lasting six or more months).

People with CRPS have malfunctioning peripheral C-fiber nerve fibers, which are unmyelinated (having no protective sheath) sensory nerves that transmit pain signals to the brain. These malfunctioning nerves excessively fire off pain signals to the brain and trigger the inflammation process for healing.

Though nerve damage is believed to cause the intense, excessive, and prolonged pain associated with CRPS, not everyone with CRPS symptoms have easily identifiable nerve damage. The team at Southern Pain and Spine classifies CRPS into types based on whether they can find nerve damage or not. These types include:

CRPS I

CRPS I, formally known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), causes symptoms without known nerve damage. 

CRPS II

When nerve damage is found, you have CRPS II, formally known as causalgia. 

Both types cause the same symptoms. However, with CRPS I, the nerve damage may be subtle and hard to find.

What are the symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome?

Symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome vary. However, they tend to improve during recovery. With CRPS, you may have:

  • Ongoing burning or throbbing pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to mild touch
  • Swelling in the affected extremity
  • Change in skin color or texture
  • Change in nail or hair growth
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Excess bone loss or bone growth

If you have these symptoms, schedule a consultation at Southern Pain and Spine.

How is complex regional pain syndrome diagnosed?

The Southern Pain and Spine team conducts a thorough exam when you come in with symptoms that sound like complex regional pain syndrome. They ask detailed questions about your symptoms, when they started, and the underlying injury that triggered the symptoms.

They examine the affected limb and perform diagnostic tests to confirm or rule CRPS. Testing may include nerve conduction studies (NCS), ultrasound testing, MRI, or bone scans. 

How is complex regional pain syndrome treated?

Rehabilitation is the most important treatment for CRPS. The team at Southern Pain and Spine specializes in rehabilitation to restore function for their pain patients. 

Your rehabilitation may include exercises that improve strength, flexibility, and function in the affected limb. Movement also improves blood flow, which helps heal the damaged nerves.

The team may also provide medication management to ease symptoms. When conservative measures fail to ease your pain, they may recommend interventional pain management procedures such as a sympathetic nerve block to stop the pain signal from reaching your brain.

Without proper treatment, the nerve damage related to complex regional pain syndrome may be irreversible. Call Southern Pain and Spine or schedule a consultation online today.