Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, CRPS or RSD are chronic conditions characterized by severe burning pain, most often affecting one extremity (arms, legs, hands, or feet).
Injury or trauma doesn’t have to be major, like a serious car accident or getting hit hard in the face.
Yes, impact like this can trigger Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, but it can also develop from little things like stepping on a nail or having surgery to remove a corn from your foot.
It’s also possible to get CRPS from a dental infection, a shot in the arm, or something as ordinary as stress.
The pain gets worse over time, and usually spreads to another extremity or area of the body.
Patients often describe the pain as a burning sensation, or a “pins and needles” sensation.
Why people develop Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
It’s not clear. In more than 90% of people who develop CRPS, it is triggered by a trauma or injury such as a fracture, sprain, soft tissue injury (like a burn or bruise), or surgery.
Even keeping a limb in a cast can trigger it for some people.
But, the majority of people with similar injuries or traumas do not experience CPRS. So, why some people develop CRPS while others don’t is largely a mystery.
What is known: CRPS is an abnormal neurological response. Just as some people have an abnormal reaction to certain food which leads to food allergies (nuts or dairy), CRPS is an abnormal reaction to an injury or trauma.
A less typical onset: some people develop CRPS after having a stroke, heart attack, or other condition.
CRPS is confusing because the pain persists for months or years after an injury has healed.
The pain can also have the following differences:
It’s greater than would be expected from the injury (also known as hyperalgesia)
CRPS can cause you to become more sensitive to a pain stimulus (hyperesthesia)
CRPS result from a non-painful event (allodynia)