What Many People Don't Understand About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) isn’t all that common — it affects about 200,000 people yearly in the United States. For those who do develop CRPS, however, life can be challenging for many reasons — primarily the pain and discomfort. The lack of information about the condition can be frustrating, as well.

To help shed some light, the team here at Spinal Diagnostics wants to take this opportunity to discuss what we know about CRPS.

What CRPS is

CRPS is a condition where you feel excessive pain after an injury (typically in your arm or leg) that continues after the injury has healed.

Researchers believe that the culprits behind the pain are malfunctioning peripheral C-fiber nerve fibers that become hyperactive after the injury and continue to send pain signals to your brain. This messaging then prompts your central nervous system to initiate an inflammatory response, which only adds to the problem as the inflammation creates its pain and discomfort.

The symptoms of CRPS

Pain is the primary symptom of CRPS and can be quite intense — even the slightest touch can trigger it or crop up spontaneously. The pain is often described as burning but can also present as pins and needles.

Outside of discomfort, the malfunction in your peripheral nerves can lead to other symptoms, including:

  • Changes in skin texture — to shiny and thin or thick and scaly
  • Changes in skin temperature — either cooler or warmer
  • Abnormal sweating 
  • Changes to your nail or hair growth — either rapid growth or none at all
  • Joint stiffness
  • Muscle weakness or lack of coordination

In rare cases, some people with CRPS develop jerking or twitching in the affected limb.

How long CRPS lasts

It’s difficult to say how long CRPS lasts as it depends upon how quickly your nerve fibers heal. In some cases, you may have acute CRPS that lasts only a few months, while others develop chronic CRPS, which are symptoms that continue for more than six months.

In most cases, CRPS eventually resolves itself, but there are rare cases in which a person is left struggling with long-term CRPS.

Who’s at risk for CRPS?

While anyone can develop CRPS, it tends to develop in women more than men — 3 to 4 times more often — and it usually doesn’t occur in people over 40. The reason for this is that the older you get, the less your body responds with inflammation. On the other end of the spectrum, children don’t typically develop CRPS since their young bodies are primed for fast healing.

Treating CRPS

If you’re struggling with CRPS, our goal is to make you as comfortable as possible while your nerves heal. To do this, we turn to:

To determine which treatments would be most suitable for your CRPS symptoms, you first need to see us for a complete evaluation. To get started, contact one of our locations in Tualatin and Newberg, Oregon, to set up an appointment.

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