My Simple Way of Explaining Complex Regional Pain Syndrome


My nerves just don’t know how to be nerves.

When people ask what complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is, this is the first thing I tell them. People will usually chuckle, some will look confused and others will ask questions. I then go on to better explain just what CRPS is in the way it was explained to me when I was diagnosed as a teenager.

CRPS is caused by a short circuit in the spinal cord that mixes up pain signals. After an injury such as a broken toe, a person without CRPS might feel pain at the time of injury and for a few days later. The broken toe sends an injury signal to the brain and the brain sends back a pain signal which causes the pain, inflammation and bruising. For a person with CRPS, the broken toe will send the injury signal to the brain which will send the pain signal to the toe, except the signals get mixed up in that short circuit and continue to send constant pain signals for weeks, months and years. With the constant pain signals being sent throughout my body, it causes color changes, temperature changes, inflammation and other various symptoms.

My nerves are always overreacting to everything: a blood draw, a bump, a broken bone. My nervous system is like a drama queen that brings on its own drama at the expense of my body. Constantly having to fight against my own body causes other symptoms such as fatigue and insomnia.

Of course there is much more to the diagnosis than everything stated above but it is hard to explain and, to be honest, I don’t even understand everything. The human body is so complex that even doctors do not know everything. So when people ask me what CRPS is, I simply say, “My nerves just don’t know how to be nerves.”

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via staras.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Full length of silhouette man with broom cleaning office corridor

When a Hospital Custodian Gave His Answer to the Question, 'Why Me?'

In 2013, I was just wrapping up an 11 day stay in the pediatric intensive care unit after a procedure went seriously awry. I had been on the waiting list to attend a program at a pediatric rehabilitation facility near my home for several months. I’d been battling complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) for eight months at [...]
Two young women meet at the bar for a cappuccino and to chat. A woman looks smiling and supports the chin with his hand, the other looks at her and smiles

When You're in Pain, It's OK to Let Others Love You

Today is one of those days when I need love, and more importantly, I need to let you love me. I am usually an outgoing fun loving person, but since my accident… I am turning into a closed book. Do I like to talk? Hell ya! I love having chats. When I stand at a [...]

To My Husband Who Has Loved Me Through My CRPS Journey

I’m not sure why he chose to marry me. When we met in high school, I had just gone into remission after my first year being diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). When we started dating in the summer of 2006, as young college kids, my CRPS had been in remission for years. We [...]
couple holding hands outdoors

To My Partner: Thank You for Helping Me With My CRPS

Thank you. I couldn’t do it without you, from the day I got hurt to the day I got the diagnosis of chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Through all the pain, the burning horrible pain. I couldn’t do it without you. Sometimes there are things I need from you. Things I need more help with that I haven’t been [...]