Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

patient with carpal tunnel syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a nervous system malfunction and a chronic condition where a person feels pain in one or more of their limbs after an injury.

If you have recently had an injury and find that you are having pain in one or more of your limbs, there is a chance you are at risk for CRPS.

CRPS usually affects the arms or legs after injury or incident. These two specific extremities are the typical areas that CRPS could impact. It most often occurs after an injury or incident like stroke, heart attack or surgical procedure.

“They way that I explain this to my patients is that when you touch the stove, you get a little shock that goes from your finger to your brain that tells you to stop, your about to burn your finger,” says Dr. Rodolfo Gari, “with CRPS, instead of telling you to stop, the pain goes into a loop from your finger to your spinal cord and becomes constant.”


Treatment is Crucial

As time goes on untreated, you will be at an increased risk of not putting CRPS into remission. Receiving treatment as soon as possible will give you better chances of treatment. Pay attention to your symptoms and do not ignore the signs of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.


Symptoms of CRPS

As soon as you recognize CRPS symptoms, seeking help right away is essential for treatment and recovery. A specialist can help you manage the symptoms, relieve the pain and keep the condition from getting worse.

“With some patients,” says Dr. Gari, “even breathing or a slight touch to the skin can be so painful.”

The symptoms may include:

  • Constant feeling of burning or throbbing in the affected limb, typically your leg, arm, foot or hand
  • Swelling in the affected limb
  • Your limb may change temperature from hot to cold and back
  • The limb may be sensitive to old temperatures or being touched
  • Your joints may swell or feel stiff
  • Difficulty moving the affected limb
  • Your skin tone may change, turning mottled or shades of red or blue
  • Your skin may also have texture changes, becoming thinner, more tender or shiny
  • The affected limb may have changes in nail and hair growth
  • You may experience muscle spasms or atrophy

Keep in mind, symptoms can vary depending on the affected person, but the sensitivity and pain may occur first. The important thing is to seek help from a doctor as soon as possible.


Why Fast Treatment is Critical

If treatment is not given within a certain amount of time after the injury, changes in skin color may occur at a point when your condition has become irreversible.

There is a possibility of CRPS going away on its own if the pain and symptoms are not too severe and do not worsen. However, CRPS could possibly spread from the affected limb to another part of your body, such as another limb.

CRPS pain could worsen with signs of stress, so even if the condition has you feeling stressed, try to stay calm and simply get the help you need.

The medical team at Physician Partners of America can help you find the right treatment plan, and get your CRPS symptoms under control before they get worse.