Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: Causes & Treatment

What is it?

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a long lasting, very painful condition. Normally, after an injury or surgery your sympathetic nervous system is activated to bring about healing and return your body back to normal.

The sympathetic nerve is activated from the message of pain that is received from the initial injury.

Due to distorted information processing, of unknown cause, these nerves continue to send the message of injury to the brain and so the symptoms of the initial injury (redness, swelling) are continually experienced.

Therefore, an abnormal healing response is demonstrated. The pain of the initial injury is felt long after the injury has taken place and usually worsens.

Right hand CRPS resting on a towel

What may I experience?

  • intense pain that out of proportion to the initial injury
  • altered sensations – increased sensitivity to touch (hot and/or cold), pressure and movement
  • swollen and look shiny
  • colour change – either red and blotchy or blue and pale
  • abnormal sweating or dryness
  • stiffness & loss of strength
  • reduced function

What should I do?

Treatment is focused around interrupting the effect of the sympathetic nerve control. Book an appointment here.

Mirror therapy, motor imagery & laterality exercises will be part of treatment. Weight bearing & traction exercises, along with mobilisation techniques and conservative methods to reduce pain and swelling, may also be used.  

We will also teach you ways to help manage and cope with your pain. A positive approach to your injury and relaxation techniques will help reduce your symptoms.  Refer to the brain health advice for ways to keep your mind healthy while your body heals.

What can I expect?

The result is different for each individual. It can take several months for the symptoms to reduce. Most people will return to normal or near normal functionality, however you could be left with a moderate to severe disability.

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