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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

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Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPs) is a condition that causes chronic pain in the arms and legs, but almost any body part can be affected.

There are two types of complex regional pain syndrome, CRPS I and CRPS II.

CRPS I may occur spontaneously or after an acute injury involving the extremities (arms, legs, hands, feet).

CRPS II involves direct injury to a nerve. The body’s nervous system reacts by causing the body to keep sending pain signals to the brain. The brain then interprets these signals as ongoing pain, which triggers a pain cycle.

What causes complex regional pain syndrome?

We don’t know what causes CRPS. Many times we never even find out what triggered the pain cycle. In some cases, a child with CRPS has had a major stressful event like trauma, infection, sprain, emotional stress, surgery or a similar event that is very hard on the body. Unfortunately, there is no blood test or study like an X-ray or CAT scan that can tell if your child has CRPS. Bone scans may show changes, but the scans are often normal and therfore not useful.

What are the symptoms?

Signs and symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome include:

  • Continuous burning or throbbing pain, usually in your arm, leg, hand or foot
  • Sensitivity to touch or cold
  • Swelling of the painful area
  • Changes in skin temperature — at times your skin may be sweaty; at other times it may be cold
  • Changes in skin color, which can range from white and mottled to red or blue
  • Changes in skin texture, which may become tender, thin or shiny in the affected area
  • Changes in hair and nail growth
  • Joint stiffness, swelling and damage
  • Muscle spasms, weakness and loss (atrophy)
  • Decreased ability to move the affected body part

How is complex regional pain syndrome treated?

A team approach to management is important in dealing with the different parts of your child's life that CRPS may affect. The treatment plan aims to break the cycle of pain by dealing with the different areas that CRPS can affect.

Treatments for CRPS include education about this condition, physical and/or occupational therapy, learning coping skills, normal use of the affected body part, desensitization (stopping the pain cycle by touching the body part that hurts), interventions or medications. You, your child and your treatment team must decide together what treatments are work best for your child and your family.

We're here to help.

If your child is suffering from pain, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-7246.