CRPS: Symptoms and Treatments

CRPS: Symptoms and Treatments

CRPS: Symptoms and Treatments

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) really is a complex and painful syndrome. With this syndrome, the pain experienced by the sufferer is out of proportion to the potential cause of injury. This means that the aftereffects of the cause are much more painful than they were at the start.

CRPS is uncommon. It is so uncommon that annually Type 1 CRPS affects about 5.5 people in every 100,000 people. This means that in the US, there are almost 200,000 people diagnosed every year. Unfortunately, the causes are not obvious, and this makes it difficult to find the right treatment. However, it is possible to improve symptoms and lead to remission. 

Some Myths about CRPS

There are several misconceptions and misunderstandings about CRPS that make it difficult for people to look for and find help for this syndrome. These myths include the belief that:

  • It’s all in your head—No. The pain you feel is very real because CRPS is a physical syndrome.
  • Only major injuries cause CRPS—False. Any type of injury or trauma can cause CRPS.
  • CRPS is a short-term syndrome – Unfortunately, CRPS can last from a few months to several years.
  • You can’t treat CRPS—This is incorrect as there are several treatment options available.


The symptoms  of CRPS are often limited to an arm, hand, leg, or foot. They also vary from person to person and can change. These symptoms are:

  • A constant burn or throb in the affected area
  • Muscle atrophy, spasms, tremors, and weakness
  • Swelling, sensitivity, stiffness in muscles and joints
  • Changes in skin color, temperature, and texture
  • Changes in nail and hair growth
  • Decreased mobility in the affected area

Changes in temperature and sensitivity and the pain, swelling, and redness are often the first symptoms a person sees. Then comes the nail and skin changes and the muscle spasms. By the time these last symptoms occur, CRPS is advanced, and the treatment becomes much more difficult. It is also possible for CRPS to spread to another limb or other parts of the body.


Injury and trauma cause most cases of CRPS. These often involve intense trauma or crushing injury to an arm or leg. There are two types of CRPS with the distinction being between the causes.

Type I

Type I CRPS, or reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), involves injury or trauma that does not damage the nerves.

Type II

Type II CRPS, or causalgia, involves injury or trauma that directly affects the nerves.

It is also possible for smaller traumas and injuries to cause CRPS. This includes heart attacks, surgery, and even an ankle or wrist sprain.


There is no one prescribed treatment and no cure. Because of this, treatment focuses on the symptoms, especially pain. Treatment options include:

  • Topical analgesics
  • Opioids
  • Corticosteroids
  • Antidepressants
  • Physical therapy
  • Sympathetic nerve block
  • Spinal cord stimulation

How we can help

At North Lakes Pain, we’re here to help with all your CRPS treatments and pain management needs. Please contact us today for more information, our certified providers,  and appointments.

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