What is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, commonly known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a serious disorder caused by a direct or indirect nerve injury. Causes include surgery involving excessive pressure on a nerve, heart attack, or stroke. Although this condition typically affects one’s hands, your arms, legs and feet may also be at risk.

CRPS occurs due to an over-activity in the nervous system, developing over the course of approximately 1 year and 3 stages known as Acute, Dystrophic, and Atrophic. Following a traumatic event, you may begin to notice burning, swelling, stiffness and discoloration in the affected limb.

Left untreated, the symptoms will slowly develop leading to permanent loss of color and functionality. During the Atrophic stage, there is also a substantially increased risk that the illness may spread to other parts of your body. If caught early, however, CRPS can be partially or even fully reversible.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a relatively new condition that cannot be diagnosed with certainty using any medical equipment available today. However, X-ray, bone scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies provide essential clues based on the musculoskeletal structure of the affected limb as well as the state of your nervous system.

Because CRPS affects not one but two systems in your body, treatment may involve a number of non-surgical and surgical options. Non-invasive solutions include medications (anti-depressants, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsants and more), physical and/or occupational therapy, and biofeedback. Surgical solutions, on the other hand, may include a spinal cord stimulator or pain pump implantation, depending on your distinct case.

If you begin to notice any of the above symptoms and suspect that you may be experiencing Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, do not panic! Instead, we strongly recommend visiting Coastal Orthopedics Sports Medicine & Pain Management for a thorough evaluation by the leading pain management specialists in Bradenton, FL. We will help determine whether you indeed have CRPS and, if so, promptly guide you through appropriate treatment to ensure a complete and speedy recovery.