What Is CRPS? And What Are My Treatment Options?

CRPS stands for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, an illness recognized for chronic pain that often occurs in the limbs. There is an insufficient amount of studies on what causes CRPS, but some researchers believe it is connected to inflammation and nerve damage. The illness typically festers following a surgery or an injury, and the pain is described to be disproportionate to the severity of the injury. Some patients experience CRPS following a stroke or heart attack. The disease is relatively rare, with less than 200,000 cases throughout the United States. CRPS is currently incurable, but there are many treatments that can mitigate the pain associated with the illness. The condition can be managed, and early treatment seems to be very effective.

Causes

CRPS lacks sufficient evidence to pinpoint its cause, but most doctors and researchers believe it is associated with damaged or abnormal peripheral and central nervous system nerves. The condition typically festers following an injury. CRPS is generally divided into two types and distinguished by cause, but symptoms are similar for both types.

CRPS Type 1: The condition develops following an injury that is not directly related to the nerve. Most people (90%) with CRPS have this type. CRPS Type 1 is also interchangeably known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD).

CRPS Type 2: The condition develops following a distinct injury to the nerve.

CRPS can occur following minor and major physical or internal traumas. Injuries that can lead to CRPS can be as minor as a sprained ankle and as major as a heart attack. There is no connection to what causes certain injuries to lead to CRPS.

Symptoms:

            There are many signs of developing CRPS, but it can vary from time and person. Some common symptoms include a constant burning or pain in the injured area. If an injured person finds their injury is sensitive to temperature and touch or swollen, that can also signify CRPS. Changes in skin temperature, skin color, texture, hair growth, or nail growth can also be attributed to CRPS. More severe symptoms include stiff joints, muscle spasms, and decreased mobility in the injured body part.

Unfortunately, these symptoms are commonly associated with general injury. Less severe symptoms will typically occur first, but it can become very dangerous if CRPS is allowed to fester. Joint stiffness can become permanent damage, and muscle stiffness can lead to muscle atrophy. CRPS has been known to progress without treatment and has also been observed to spread to other body parts.

If you experience constant and disproportionate pain, seeking a professional medical opinion is ideal. Treating CRPS early is the best way to manage its symptoms. No one test will point to a CRPS diagnosis, but a doctor will be able to confirm the diagnosis through conducting certain tests and considering your medical history.

Treatment Options

            There are many treatment options available for CRPS, and it can vary widely on the individual and injury. Still, all professionals agree that beginning treatment as soon as possible is the best way to minimize the effects of CRPS. The condition has no cure, and treatments are majorly targeted towards alleviating symptoms. Common treatment options include:

OTC Pain Relievers: If the patient is experiencing unproportionate but minimal pain from CRPS, many doctors suggest regularly taking OTC pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

Anticonvulsants: Gabapentin and pregabalin are common anticonvulsants that are prescribed for treating CRPS. It is both effective and safe at treating neuropathic pain with no reports of major side effects.

Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections: Botox has been injected in CRPS patients with success for short-term pain relief. It has a low chance of complications but has also not proven to have long-lasting effects.

There are many other treatments for CRPS that include but are not limited to intravenous ketamine, physical therapy, and spinal cord stimulation. Speaking to your doctor is the best way to determine what treatment or treatments may be best for you. CRPS is also becoming increasingly more well-known, and new forms of treatments are being discovered or developed every day.

Alternative Treatments

CRPS alternative treatments can either be used to substitute traditional treatments or as supplements. Like traditional treatments for CRPS, there are many forms of alternative treatments available. Some common treatments include:

Customized Diet: Certain foods lead to inflammation in patients, especially those without known allergies. Reaching out to a dietician can help you reduce inflammation through your diet and minimize the pain of CRPS.

Massage Therapy: Massages have been shown to reduce muscle inflammation and stress. Having a regular deep massage in the afflicted area can help release pain and tension in the muscle.

Acupuncture: While not widely popular in Western culture, acupuncture has long served to reduce pain in Eastern medicine.

These are far from all the available alternative treatments for CRPS, but hopefully, they will allow you to see that CRPS has a lot of available treatments and the condition can be managed through adequate care.

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