CRPS (formerly known as RSD) stands for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.  This condition is categorized by chronic pain that occurs most often in the arms or legs and has no clear cause.  What is known is that CRPS is a disorder of the nervous system that causes nerve fibers to send constant pain signals to brain, causing chronic pain.  These constant pain signals also cause the inflammatory response seen in many CRPS sufferers.

Those suffering from CRPS often exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Chronic pain in the affected area
  • Burning or throbbing in the affected area
  • Edema (swelling) of the affected area
  • Hyper-sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Abnormal skin discoloration
  • Noticeable changes in skin temperature
  • Increased sweating
  • Muscle spasms
  • Neurological deficits
  • Limited range of motion

It is thought that CRPS can be brought on by either a major or minor injury to the affected area or after surgery, stroke or heart condition.  However, the pain response felt in the affected area is disproportionate to the severity of the injury.   In some instances, CRPS symptoms may travel and manifest themselves in other areas of the body.  Most commonly in the opposite extremity.

Due to lack of understanding of CRPS, it was long thought that CRPS was a psychological condition.  Several clinical studies and research have affirmed that CRPS is not a psychological condition but rather a condition of the central nervous system.  However, it should be noted that emotional stress can exacerbate CRPS symptoms.

CRPS is often classified into two types.

Type 1

Formerly known as RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome), this form of CRPS develops after illness or injury that did not damage the nerves of the affected limb directly.  About 90% of CRPS sufferers have this form of the condition.

Type 2

Formerly referred to as Causalgia, this form of CRPS occurs as a result of a traumatic injury to the nerves.  It is thought that the nerves do not properly recover from the initial injury and the result is overactivity of pain signals sent to the brain.

There is no definitive cure for CRPS.  However, studies have shown that those who undergo treatments sooner have a substantially increased chance of pain relief or remission of symptoms.