Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

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Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a rare condition that causes severe chronic pain, usually in the arms or legs, but not restricted to those areas.  Scientists aren’t certain exactly what causes CRPS, but they believe it may result from peripheral nerve disorder. Here are some facts about complex regional pain syndrome, and some tips for alleviating chronic pain.

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What is CRPS?

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), or reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS), is a rare form of chronic pain disorder that scientists believe is centered in the peripheral and central nervous systems.

With CRPS I, patients suffer from chronic pain following an injury of health condition that didn’t cause any noticeable damage to the nervous system. This is the most common type of CRPS.

CRPS II is usually triggered by actual nerve damage resulting from injury, heart attack, infection, or stroke. With CRPS I, pain symptoms are disproportional with any perceivable injury and often exacerbated by stress.

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What causes CRPS?

Scientists don’t know exactly what causes complex regional pain syndrome, but there are a few theories. One is that increased sensitivity to pain triggers results from a nervous system disorder and incorrect response to inflammation. Others believe that CRPS may result from an autoimmune disorder.

What are the symptoms of CRPS?

The most common form of CRPS affects the peripheral nervous system, resulting in debilitating pain in the extremities.

Some of the symptoms of CRPS include:

  • Pervasive burning or throbbing pain in the legs, arms, hands, or feet
  • Hypersensitivity to extreme temperatures
  • Painful swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Muscle pain and spasms
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Change in skin tone or texture
  • Decreased motor control

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CRPS treatment

Below are some popular medications, treatments, and natural therapies that have proven effective for alleviating symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome.

  • Pain relievers, including both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription
  • Antidepressants and anti-epileptic drugs, for treating peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)
  • Corticosteroids (steroid drugs) to treat inflammation and increase mobility
  • Sympathetic nerve blockers
  • Physical therapy, for range of motion
  • Psychotherapy, for stress reduction
  • Spinal cord stimulation

Vitamins for CRPS

For preventing complex regional pain syndrome, doctors recommend taking extra vitamin C following any injuries, including falls, fractures, or sprains.

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Also, as vitamin B12 is essential for optimum nervous system integrity, doctors also urge patients of CRPS to take extra doses of vitamin B12, in order to boost intercellular communication within the nervous system and prevent peripheral nerve damage.

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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Fact Sheet

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