Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) refers to intense, long-term pain and inflammation of the arm or leg following an injury, surgery, heart attack, or stroke. It occurs in two forms – acute (short-term) or chronic (lasting more than six months). If you have Frisco CRPS, you will experience changing combinations of spontaneous pain that is out of proportion, following something as mild as a touch. While most complex regional pain syndrome cases improve over time and eventually go away, severe cases are usually disabling. Treating CRPS is usually hard due to the varied symptoms and the fact that they may change over time.

What are the symptoms of CRPS?

The symptoms of CRPS are numerous and vary from person to person. Usually, at first, you will have pain, swelling, redness, and noticeable changes in temperature and hypersensitivity. Skin texture changes also occur over time due to insufficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients. The skin of the affected limb may become shiny and thin or thick and scaly. You may also notice slow or abnormally rapid nail growth on the toes of the affected limb.

Other symptoms include unprovoked or spontaneous pain that might be persistent or fluctuate with activity. The affected joints can also become stiff due to the limited movement that reduces the flexibility of tendons and ligaments. You may also have impaired muscle strength and movement due to pain and abnormalities in the sensory input that helps coordinate movement.

What causes CPRS?

The cause of complex regional pain syndrome is not clearly understood, but most CPRS illnesses are due to damage to or improper functioning of the small peripheral nerve fibers that transmit messages to the brain. Typically, CPRS results from forceful trauma or an injury to an arm or leg, such as a fracture or crushing injury. However, minor injuries such as sprained ankles can also lead to CPRS. While an injury mostly causes CPRS, some people with this condition report no causal injury or trauma. In most cases, the cause is often an undiagnosed internal nerve injury. It may also be due to tiny clots which block blood flow to a nerve, causing damage. Although rare, nerve injury may result from a tumor infection or abnormal blood vessels. A thorough evaluation is necessary to check for internal problems if you have CPRS with no apparent cause.

Who is at risk of complex regional pain syndrome?

Anyone can develop CPRS, but it is more common in females. Older adults have less inflammation after an injury and are less likely to develop this problem. CPRS is also rare in young children since they heal quickly and completely. Your risk of developing CPRS is higher if you have a fracture; wrist fractures are the most common cause. This is especially true if your nerves become injured due to displaced bone pressure from a tight cast. Surgical procedures also increase your risk of CPRS even if the surgery goes well. A surgical incision can cause nerve injury, causing CPRS.

If you have symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome, visit your provider at OmniSpine Pain Management for diagnosis and treatment to improve your quality of life.