Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition that can affect children, teens, and adults of all ages. Even though the discomfort related to CRPS can last for years, it’s often misunderstood and misdiagnosed.
Dr. Edward Carden is a pain management physician with a busy practice in Sherman Oaks, California. Dr. Carden and his team provide highly effective treatments for conditions that can impact your daily routine, mobility, and overall quality of life.
Read what this expert says about CRPS and the treatments available for this nerve-related pain disorder.
What are the symptoms of CRPS?
CRPS symptoms typically occur in an arm or leg, sometimes switching to both, and may include:
- Constant burning or throbbing pain
- Extreme sensitivity and painful response to even the lightest touch
- Pain that can travel the length of your arm or leg or develop in the opposite extremity
- Sensation that the affected limb is being squeezed
- Swelling in the arm or leg that may remain constant or come and go
- Stiffness, decreased range of motion, and loss of function
- Changes in skin temperature, ranging from cool to overly warm
- Blotchy red or purplish skin discoloration
- Shiny, thin, or excessively sweaty skin on the affected arm or leg
- Changes in nail and hair growth
Many of these symptoms are common to other conditions, such as peripheral artery disease (PAD), but studies undertaken to diagnose these other disorders are often inconclusive.
Thus, CRPS can be misdiagnosed and remain untreated, or at least undertreated, for years. This can have a significant effect on your psychological as well as your physical health.
What causes CRPS?
Medical research has not shown a clear cause for CRPS yet. However, we do know it generally develops 4-6 weeks after an injury such as a fracture, laceration, or surgical procedure involving the affected limb. Heart attacks or strokes are also common triggers for CRPS.
Notably, the symptoms develop and remain long after the injury has healed and are significantly out of proportion to the initial trauma. Also, while you may have injured a wrist or a knee, CRPS symptoms tend to travel the entire length of the affected extremity.
Researchers do believe, however, that CRPS is likely related to general nerve inflammation and certain inflammatory responses to injury that affect the way your nervous system processes and responds to pain. This causes an oversensitivity to the discomfort that distorts the signals your nerves send to the brain.
These symptoms don’t mean you’re imagining the pain. Rather, your nerves are irritated and inflamed and responding with pain.
After a careful review of your symptoms, physical exam, and diagnostic studies to rule out other conditions, Dr. Carden creates an individualized treatment strategy that may include:
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Medications to relieve pain
- Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
- Nerve-blocking drugs to control pain
- Spinal cord stimulation to disrupt pain signals from your nerves to your brain
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
If you’re experiencing symptoms related to CRPS or have been diagnosed with but not adequately treated for this painful condition, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Carden today.