Health Conditions:

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

What is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a rare type of chronic pain. It usually affects the extremities like your arms or your legs. While the cause of the disease is not clearly understood by the medical community, they do recognize that in most cases it is brought on after an injury, heart attack, or stroke.

What makes this disease unique is that the chronic pain that follows the injury or traumatic incident is out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury.

An example of this is seen in one woman who developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy after her stitches were removed for carpal tunnel surgery. She says, “When they took out the stitches, the pain was unbearable. For months following the procedure, I had nerve pain in my hands. I am currently dealing with a burning pain, which is difficult to control. I am frustrated with doctors because when I describe my pain, they just won’t listen.”

What causes Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy often follows illness or injury. The illness or injury does not directly damage the nerves on the limbs that are affected. For many, the chronic pain begins after they had an accident or some other trauma, such as a fracture or an amputation.

In other cases, the trauma is relatively minor and may include a mild infection or a sprained ankle. Doctors have seen a link between emotional stress and the development of reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Doctors are still sorting out why this disease develops, but they believe it has something to do with the way that your central and peripheral nervous system interacts, leading to an exaggerated response.

What are the symptoms of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

There are many complex symptoms that accompany reflex sympathetic dystrophy. They include but are not limited to:

  • Constant burning or throbbing in the affected area
  • Pain that is felt in your arms, legs, hands, or feet
  • You are sensitive to cold
  • The affected area becomes inflamed and swells
  • Skin in the affected area has temperature fluctuations. At times, the skin may become hot and sweaty, and other times it may feel cold
  • Your skin may change color. It may be white, blue, or red
  • You may notice a change in your skin’s texture. It is not uncommon for the affected area to become shiny or for the skin to appear thin
  • Your hair and nails may change the speed at which they grow or the style that they grow in
  • Your joints get stiff, start to swell, and are damaged
  • You begin to lose mobility in the affected body part
  • Your muscles get weak, they atrophy, and spasm

Treating and Diagnosing Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Talking about her reflex sympathetic dystrophy, one sufferer said that it is a nasty disease. She added, “When you have a doctor who does not discuss it with you, it makes it even more frustrating.”

In truth, nothing can be more disheartening than battling a serious illness, dealing with intense pain, and your medical professional not listening to you.

For this reason, the very first step of our pain management treatment is sitting down and listening to you. We understand that the pain you are feeling is real. It is not in your head, and it is not your imagination.

When we hear about your symptoms, we are in a better position to work with you to create a pain management treatment program that is tailor-made to your specific individual needs. We will never insult you or the pain that you are suffering by offering you a cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all treatment program. What we offer is uniquely designed for you.

Our program is designed to provide you with long-term and short-term pain management. Short-term is designed to get you back to the living as much of your life as you can as soon as possible. Long-term pain management is designed to help you keep living an active and happy lifestyle with little to no pain for the rest of your life.

Regardless of what you have seen from other doctors, we will not give up on you. We are dedicated to helping you for the long haul. We want your pain gone. We want you to get back to living the quality of life you lived before you were forced to face reflex sympathetic dystrophy.