Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Understanding Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition that affects the limbs, typically after an injury, surgery, stroke, or heart attack. The pain experienced is often more severe than the initial injury might suggest. This syndrome can be debilitating, significantly impacting the quality of life for those affected. Understanding CRPS is essential for managing the condition effectively.

Complex regional pain syndrome right foot

Symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

CRPS symptoms can vary widely among individuals, but common signs include:

  • Continuous burning or throbbing pain: This pain usually occurs in the arm, leg, hand, or foot.
  • Sensitivity to touch or cold: Even light touches or slight temperature changes can cause significant discomfort.
  • Swelling in the painful area: Swelling is often accompanied by a noticeable change in skin temperature and color.
  • Changes in skin temperature: The affected limb may alternate between feeling excessively warm and excessively cold.
  • Changes in skin color: The skin can appear blotchy, pale, red, or even blue.
  • Abnormal sweating: There may be changes in sweating patterns in the affected limb.
  • Joint stiffness and swelling: Stiffness and swelling in the joints can limit mobility.
  • Muscle spasms and tightening: Over time, the affected limb may become cold and pale, and experience muscle spasms and tightening.
  • Skin and nail changes: The skin may become shiny and thin, and nails may grow abnormally quickly or slowly.

These symptoms can vary in intensity and duration, sometimes spreading from one part of the body to another. The chronic nature of CRPS can lead to long-term disability if not managed properly.

Causes of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

The exact cause of CRPS isn’t fully understood, but it is believed to result from an injury or a change in the peripheral and central nervous systems. Here are some potential causes:

  • Injury: CRPS typically follows trauma or injury, such as fractures, sprains, or surgical procedures. Even minor injuries can trigger the syndrome.
  • Nerve damage: Injuries that damage the nerves in the affected limb can lead to CRPS.
  • Immune system response: Abnormal responses of the immune system may contribute to inflammation and CRPS symptoms.
  • Heart attack or stroke: CRPS can develop after a heart attack or stroke due to the body’s complex response to these events.

Researchers are still studying the precise mechanisms behind CRPS. However, it is clear that the condition involves a malfunction in the way the nervous system processes pain signals.

Treatment Options for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

There is no known cure for CRPS, but various treatments can help manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected. A multi-disciplinary approach is often the most effective. Here are some treatment options:


Several types of medications can be used to manage CRPS symptoms:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Anticonvulsants: Drugs like gabapentin and pregabalin can help manage nerve pain.
  • Corticosteroids: Medications like prednisone can reduce inflammation and improve mobility.
  • Tricyclic anti-depressants: Medications like nortriptyline can reduce the burning pain and sensitivity and aid in improving sleep.
  • Bisphosphonates: Drugs like alendronate and pamidronate can help manage bone pain and other symptoms.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is crucial for maintaining mobility and function in the affected limb. A physical therapist can design a personalized exercise program to:

  • Improve strength and flexibility: Gentle exercises can help maintain muscle tone and prevent stiffness.
  • Enhance circulation: Movement can improve blood flow to the affected area, reducing swelling and pain.
  • Promote normal movement patterns: Therapy can help retrain the limb to move normally and reduce abnormal movement patterns.

Psychological Support

Living with chronic pain can be emotionally challenging. Psychological support, including counseling or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help patients cope with:

  • Depression and anxiety: Chronic pain can lead to feelings of hopelessness and anxiety. Psychological support can provide strategies for managing these emotions.
  • Pain management techniques: Therapists can teach techniques such as relaxation exercises and mindfulness to help manage pain.

Interventional Procedures

At Red Butte Pain Solutions, we offer several advanced treatment options for CRPS, including:

  • Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS): This procedure involves implanting a device that sends electrical impulses to the spinal cord, interfering with pain signals and reducing pain perception.
  • Lumbar Sympathetic Blocks: This injection targets the sympathetic nerves in the lower back, blocking pain signals from reaching the brain.
  • Ultrasound-Guided Stellate Ganglion Blocks: This procedure involves injecting medication near the stellate ganglion, a group of nerves in the neck, to reduce pain and improve function.

Living with CRPS in Arizona

Living with CRPS can be challenging, but with the right treatment and support, patients can manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. At Red Butte Pain Solutions, we are committed to helping patients in Chandler, Ahwatukee, Tempe, Sun Lakes, Laveen, Maricopa, and Casa Grande navigate their journey with CRPS.

Our team of experts is dedicated to providing comprehensive care tailored to each patient’s needs. We understand the complexities of CRPS and strive to offer the most effective treatments available. Our goal is to help our patients achieve the best possible outcomes and maintain a fulfilling life despite the challenges of CRPS.

Seeking Help

Early diagnosis and treatment are key to managing CRPS effectively. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of CRPS, don’t hesitate to Pre-register for an appointment and reach out to us at Red Butte Pain Solutions. Our experienced team can provide the support and care needed to manage this condition.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. With the right care and support, it is possible to live a fulfilling life with CRPS.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare provider for any medical concerns.