Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Jul 26, 2023
Treatment options for CRPS.

Title: Understanding Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS): Causes, Symptoms, and Management


Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), is a rare and poorly understood chronic pain condition that affects the nervous system. The disorder often develops following an injury or trauma, leading to severe and prolonged pain in a specific region of the body. In this blog post, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, and available management options for CRPS, shedding light on this enigmatic condition.

Causes of CRPS

The exact cause of CRPS remains a subject of ongoing research, but it typically occurs after an injury or trauma to a limb. The condition may be triggered by seemingly minor injuries such as fractures, sprains, burns, or surgical procedures. However, not everyone who experiences an injury will develop CRPS, and the reasons behind this discrepancy are not entirely clear.

Some theories suggest that CRPS might result from an abnormal immune response or dysfunction in the peripheral and central nervous systems. Additionally, genetic factors and psychological influences may also play a role in predisposing individuals to CRPS.

Symptoms of CRPS

CRPS can manifest in different stages, and the symptoms may vary from person to person. The following are common symptoms associated with the condition:

  1. Intense and Prolonged Pain: The hallmark symptom of CRPS is severe and persistent pain in the affected limb, which often feels disproportionate to the initial injury.

  2. Changes in Skin and Temperature: The skin of the affected area may appear shiny, discolored, or mottled. Furthermore, the limb might feel either unusually hot or cold to the touch.

  3. Swelling and Sensitivity: Swelling and increased sensitivity to touch or pressure are frequent occurrences in CRPS-affected limbs.

  4. Limited Mobility: Muscles and joints in the affected area may become stiff and difficult to move, leading to reduced mobility.

  5. Abnormal Hair and Nail Growth: Some individuals with CRPS may notice changes in hair and nail growth patterns on the affected limb.

  6. Emotional and Psychological Effects: CRPS can lead to emotional distress, anxiety, and depression, especially due to the chronic nature of the pain and its impact on daily life.

Management of CRPS

Managing CRPS can be challenging, and a comprehensive approach involving various medical professionals is often necessary. Here are some common management options:

  1. Pain Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, as well as prescription medications such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and opioids, may be used to alleviate CRPS-related pain.

  2. Physical Therapy: Physical therapy aims to improve mobility, strength, and flexibility of the affected limb. It may also include desensitization techniques to reduce sensitivity.

  3. Sympathetic Nerve Blocks: These are injections of anesthetic agents into the affected nerves to block pain signals and provide temporary relief.

  4. Peripheral Nerve Stimulators( Ex. Stimrouter) have shown a lot of promise by stimulating the lower extremity nerves that are affected by CRPS. These procedures ofter more direct localized treatments and quicker recovery than spinal cord stimulators.

  5. Psychotherapy: Since CRPS can have significant emotional and psychological effects, psychotherapy can assist individuals in coping with the condition and its impact on their lives.

  6. Graded Motor Imagery (GMI): This is a specialized therapy that involves mental exercises to rewire the brain's response to pain.


CRPS is a complex and enigmatic condition that demands careful management and a multidisciplinary approach. Early diagnosis and timely intervention are crucial for better outcomes. If you or someone you know experiences persistent, unexplained pain following an injury, it's essential to seek medical attention promptly. Though the journey may be challenging, with the right support and treatment, many individuals with CRPS can achieve improved pain management and quality of life.

At Kyrou Podiatry Associates we are up to date with the latest treatments including peripheral cord stimulators to relieve the pain and symptoms associated with CRPS.