Many people recovering from an injury, trauma or surgery find themselves dealing with causalgia pain. This highly debilitating and often mysterious condition can have a devastating impact on quality of life and the ability to work, spend time with loved ones and perform basic activities. While it can feel hopeless, there are effective options that can help anyone find relief.
By learning more about this condition, including the causes, symptoms and treatments, you can take control of your causalgia pain relief journey and get back to the life you deserve.
What Is Causalgia Pain?
Causalgia pain is a form of the condition known as complex regional pain syndrome. Specifically, it is complex regional pain syndrome type II (CRPS II). In contrast to CRPS type I, which typically does not involve a direct injury to the nerves, CRPS II usually develops as a result of some form of nerve damage. This disorder of the neurological system can lead to severe pain that persists on a chronic basis. While causalgia pain is extremely rare, it still affects thousands of people in the United States alone.
Causes of Causalgia Pain
Causalgia pain commonly develops due to injury or trauma to the peripheral nerves. These are the nerves that branch off of the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, sending sensory and motor information around the body. Because of this, Causalgia pain can occur nearly anywhere in the body, particularly the arms and hands and the feet and legs.
Primary causes of peripheral nerve injuries that can trigger causalgia include:
- Sprains and strains
- Burns, including chemical and electrical burns
- Physical trauma, such as crushes or blows
- Surgery, particularly if there are complications
Medical researchers are still working to learn about the connection of these types of injuries to long-term causalgia pain. One possibility is hypersensitivity in the linings of peripheral nerve tissues that respond to the inflammatory markers present after injury or trauma.
People experiencing causalgia pain typically describe it as an intense burning or electrical pain that persists for months or longer. This pain usually occurs along the pathway of the damaged peripheral nerve. In addition to severe pain, other common causalgia pain symptoms include:
- Pins and needles sensations known as paresthesia
- Sensitive skin in the area of injury
- Discoloration and changes to skin pigment
- Muscle weakness
- Swelling in the extremities
- Abnormal sweating
These symptoms can impact nearly every area of life, making nearly any activity difficult or even impossible due to the constant discomfort.
Diagnosing and Treating Causalgia Pain
Due to its rarity and disproportionate amount of pain compared to the original injury, causalgia pain can be difficult to diagnose. Anyone experiencing these symptoms persistently should see a doctor or pain specialist for an extensive evaluation including review of medical history, careful physical examination, and diagnostic testing including X-ray, MRI and nerve conductivity tests. Often diagnosis involves eliminating more common conditions such as fibromyalgia.
Upon diagnosis of causalgia, basic treatments such as over-the-counter medication and hot and cold therapy may be recommended as a starting point. If symptoms don’t respond to basic initial treatment, more involved therapies are often attempted, including:
- Physical therapy
- Certain medications, including steroids, anticonvulsants, and pain relievers
- Interventional pain management, including nerve blocks and anti-inflammatory injections
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve root stimulation (TENS,) which uses a gentle electrical current to disrupt pain signals
- Alternative therapies, including meditation and breathing exercises to help manage pain
Finding the right combination of treatments and lifestyle changes can take some time. It is important to be persistent and maintain a positive attitude as you work with your treatment team to find relief. Additionally, healthy lifestyle choices such as getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet can help improve overall health, potentially including nerve function, and help with managing causalgia pain.
If You’re Living with Causalgia Pain, PPOA Can Help
The caring and dedicated team at Physician Partners of America — PPOA — offers a range of effective options for relieving causalgia pain, including nerve blocks, anti-inflammatory injections and pain pumps. We are dedicated to patient-centered care and work with each patient to understand their treatment needs and wellness goals. To learn more about your pain relief options and creating an individualized pain management plan with one of our experts, contact us today.