Complex regional pain syndrome is chronic pain in the upper and lower limbs that typically occurs as a result of an injury or condition that causes dysfunction in the peripheral and central nervous systems. Complex regional pain syndrome may be accompanied by symptoms such as motor deficits and sensory problems.
This syndrome is characterized by pain that is significantly more intense than the severity of the injury or circumstance that caused it. While the symptoms are typically focused within one area, in some cases, they may spread to other parts of the body as well.
Other symptoms associated with this condition include:
Typically, symptoms of painful swelling and redness, along with notable changes in skin temperature and sensitivity to touch or cold are experienced at the onset of the condition. Emotional stress has been found to exacerbate symptoms. Over time, complex regional pain syndrome can lead to irreversible damage. Signs that typically indicate that the condition is immutable include loss in skin color (skin appears pale), skin temperature feels cold, muscle spasms, and muscle tightening.
Determining the exact cause of this pain syndrome can be difficult which makes it hard to treat at times, but nerve damage is typically believed to be responsible for the pain. Indeed, a procedure called a sympathetic nerve block has been shown to be effective at reducing the intensity of pain, thereby supporting the notion that this syndrome may be the result of nerve damage.
Patients who present with early onset symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome may alleviate their symptoms of poor circulation, inflexibility, muscle stiffness, and loss of muscle tone by doing physical therapy. Many patients who complete physical therapy early in the course of the condition may be able to prevent or even reverse some secondary changes in the brain that have been found to be linked to chronic pain.
IIn terms of pharmacotherapy, there are currently no medications that have been approved for the treatment of complex regional pain, though several medications are believed to provide patients with some relief. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) may help patients who are experiencing moderate pain. These medications are recommended because of their ability to reduce inflammation in the affected area. Oral corticosteroids, such as prednisone and cortisone, may also be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation of the affected area. Some medications that were originally developed to alleviate symptoms of depression have also been shown to be affective for neuropathic pain.
Patients may also experience a reduction in pain with spinal cord stimulation. This procedure involves implanting a device near the spinal column. This device delivers electrical impulses to control the transmission of pain signals from the nerves within the spine. Intrathecal pump implants can also provide patients with pain relief. This device pumps pain-relieving medications directly to the area surrounding the spinal cord.
In terms of alternative techniques, biofeedback training has received support for helping patients manage their symptoms of pain. This treatment involves teaching patients relaxation and coping skills, thereby allowing them to gain some control over their pain symptoms. Other alternative techniques, including acupuncture, are also thought to be beneficial for symptoms associated with complex regional pain syndrome.
Complex regional pain syndrome is the result of a dysfunction in the peripheral and central nervous systems that causes chronic and severe pain in the limbs. In the majority of cases of complex regional pain a history of injury or trauma can be linked with the onset of symptoms; however, in some cases there is no identifiable cause. There are a number of treatment options available for managing the symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome. Patients are encouraged to speak with their physician about the course of their condition in order to determine the treatment plan that is right for them.
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