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Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) describes as an array of painful conditions that are characterized by a continuing regional pain most often affects one limb (arm, leg, hand, or foot). It is an uncommon chronic pain condition which is also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD).

Causes of CRPS:

The cause of complex regional pain syndrome is unclear but it may be caused by an injury or any fracture. Sprains/strains, soft tissue injury (such as burns, cuts, or bruises), limb immobilization (such as being in a cast), surgery, or even minor medical procedures such as needle stick also be the reasons for complex regional pain syndrome.

Types of CRPS:

Complex regional pain syndrome is of two types, both have similar symptoms or signs but with different causes.

  • Type 1 occurs after an injury or illness but with an injury which didn’t directly damaged the nerves. Type 1 of complex regional pain syndrome is also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD) or Sundeck’s syndrome.
  • Type 2 of complex regional pain syndrome follows nerve damage. Sometimes it is also referred to as causalgia. It is an uncommon type of CRPS.


Some common symptoms you might experience if you’re suffering from complex regional pain syndrome are;

  • burning or throbbing pain which is mostly remains constant, usually in your arm, leg, hand or foot
  • Sensitivity to touch or cold
  • Swelling of the painful area
  • Changes in skin temperature; temperature alternate between sweaty and cold
  • Changes in skin color, ranging from white and mottled to red or blue
  • Changes in skin texture, which may become thin, shinny, or tinder in the affected area
  • Changes in hair and nail growth
  • Joint stiffness, swelling and damage
  • Muscle spasms, tremors, weakness and loss (atrophy)
  • Decreased ability or difficulty to move the affected body part


There is no single treatment which works for every patient of complex regional pain syndrome. Combination or multiple treatments are available if you’re experiencing pain because of CRPS.

  • Rehabilitation therapies; such therapies are effective when started early. These therapies won’t stop the pain but it restores as much function as possible and to improve quality of life.
  • Physiotherapy; most important treatment for complex regional pain syndrome. Physiotherapy prevents stiffness and loss of muscle tone as well as promoting circulation.
  • Occupational therapy; range of occupational therapies are there which can normalize the touch sensation and can manage pain symptoms.
  • Psychology and coping techniques; for long term severe pain its important because it affect your mood or emotions.
  • Drugs; painkillers, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants can help relieving pain.
  • Spinal cord stimulation; a fine wire is implanted in the epidural space close to the nerves in your back to control the pain sensation.