Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition that usually affects one of the limbs, often after there has been injury or trauma to that limb. CRPS is believed to be caused by damage to or malfunction of the nervous system. The syndrome is characterized by chronic or excessive pain and mild or dramatic changes in skin color, temperature and/or swelling in the affected area. There are two main types: CRPS-I and CRPS-II. CRPS-I involves unconfirmed nerve damage whereas CRPS-II involves confirmed nerve damage.
Although the symptoms of CRPS can closely mimic those of other illnesses or disorders, the distinguishing feature of CRPS that can lead to diagnosis is a history of injury to the affected area. Treatment options may include rehabilitation therapy, psychotherapy, medication, sympathetic nerve block and neural stimulation. Some have found that alternative therapies such as behavior modification, relaxation techniques or chiropractic treatment can help relieve some of the pain.
The pain experienced by someone with CRPS is often extreme and not proportionate to the original injury. This can make it difficult to engage in one’s regular activities and often forces a person to limit or modify their daily routine. Sometimes small tasks can use up all of a person’s strength and energy for the day. This can be both physically and mentally challenging. One of the biggest challenges people with CRPS face is the general lack of awareness and education of the syndrome, oftentimes making it difficult to obtain a diagnosis, fully comprehend the disorder and/or find effective treatment.
Research on CRPS is ongoing in order to find more effective treatment options. Several organizations are available to provide support, education and resources to people living with CRPS.