OrthoVirginia Blog

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a disorder of the nerves of the autonomic nervous system. A more simple way to understand this is that your body essentially has two nervous systems. The one involving the five senses such as sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. The other one takes care of things we don't normally think about, such as your blood pressure, your pulse, and other body functions that operate without your conscious control.

When there is a disorder of that autonomic nervous system, your body may respond in different ways resulting in the disorder formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Causes for this disruption are poorly understood and are still being researched.

What are the symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

Symptoms include: pain, burning, skin discoloration, swelling and stiffness. The earlier these symptoms are recognized, the better the prognosis for a full functional recovery.

What treatments are available?

Treatment of this disorder consists of physical or occupational therapy. Additionally, symptomatic treatment can be obtained with the use of sympathetic nerve blocks. By injecting local anesthesia with or without steroid medications in the area of these nerve bodies, the abnormal nerve impulses can be interrupted with the hope that upon the termination of the effect from the anesthetic the nerves will return to a more normal state. The areas where these are performed are in the neck for upper extremity symptoms and in the lower back for symptoms in the lower extremities.

Early detection is extremely important. If you have suffered an injury resulting in an abnormal amount of pain, or have surgical pain greater than expected, you should contact your physician as soon as possible for further evaluation and potential treatment of this disabling disorder.

For more information about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, visit webmd.