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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

What is CRPS?

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS, is a rare chronic pain condition that can affect your extremities. It is characterized by intense burning and aching pain, skin discoloration, heightened overall temperature, and extreme sensitivity.

What causes CRPS?

CRPS generally follows some sort of trauma to the limb, but the exact mechanisms through which this happens are not known at this time. There are two types of CRPS, one of which is caused by general trauma to the limb, and another, more severe, (known as causalgia) that follows distinct nerve damage in the limb such as the severing of nerves as the result of an amputation. The second is less common than the first (which is also known as RSD, or reflex sympathetic dystrophy), but is much more severe, and can cause debilitating pain.

How to diagnose CRPS

It is important for the doctor to begin with a physical exam and to take a complete medical history, as this condition almost always occurs as the result of prior trauma. Bone scans also prove useful, allowing the doctor to measure circulation to the affected area, which can indicate CRPS. Various tests of the sympathetic nervous system can also provide strong indicators of the condition, as well as X-rays and MRI scans.

Treatment Options

Non-surgical treatment of CRPS

Due to the pain and inflammation caused by CRPS, the first step is generally to recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs (anti-inflammatories), but often the doctor will prescribe stronger, prescription medication if the pain and inflammation are unaffected by the weaker drugs. It is also beneficial in many cases to treat the neuropathic (nerve) damage with antidepressants and anticonvulsants, in order to control the nerve function. In cases in which the pain is too severe even for these medications, opioids may be prescribed, but must be carefully monitored by the doctor to avoid risk of dependence. A series of injections or stellate ganglion blocks along a chain of sympathetic nerves in the neck, which reduce the pain-response feedback from the affected area is usually needed to get control of this condition.

Surgical treatment of CRPS

In select cases where no other attempts have proved successful in managing pain or have provided only temporary relief, a spinal cord stimulator may help by placing an implant along the base of the spine that are then attached to a subdermal battery pack. These electrodes periodically stimulate the spine and nervous system in order to control the pain of CRPS.

How can Dr. Knight help you with CRPS?

CRPS is one of the most debilitating pain conditions in the world, and Dr. Knight recognizes this fact and will work hard to make sure that you are relieved of your pain.  Dr. Knight a long with his pain management colleagues will greesively treat this condition to the best of their ability until a reasonable progress is made, and the pain is controlled as much as medically possible and through aggressive therapy, function returned.

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