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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

One of the conditions we specifically treat at Resolve Pain is Complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS for short.

CRPS is considered when a person experiences severe pain, usually in an arm or leg, where the pain seems much, much worse than expected. It often occurs with other symptoms such as the limb becoming bright red or pale, colder or hotter than the other side, sweaty, tingling and odd sensations. It can start with something as simple as kicking your toe through to more dramatic injuries such as surgery or fractures. It is an upsetting condition as often people are told that it is normal healing and that it will go away soon, often making us feel like we are crazy or why does this feel so much worse than other people think it is?

Modern science doesn’t have a complete understanding of what is happening in this condition, but large amounts of research are giving us a deeper understanding of why these changes may happen.

One theory is that your body creates inflammation in an area but doesn’t get a correct off switch. So the area becomes red and sore - but instead ofthese symptoms going away as you heal, they don’t - instead, becoming more and more inflamed.

Part of this inflammation, we think, is driven by the immune system misfiring or making a mistake. The immune system tells the body that it is still under attack and there is still healing to do – even when there is not. The immune cells and inflammation together cause blood vessels to swell or contract, leading to swelling and colour changes.

It also affects other wiring called your autonomic nervous system - leading to sweating or dryness and even nail or hair changes.

Finally, all this inflammation and immune changes cause your pain signals and all your receptors to go on high alert. Often this causes severe pain and other strange symptoms like tingling, burning, or numbness to simple things like touch or heat/cold.

Whenever we have large amounts of pain in an area, it can cause us not to move that part normally - as our brain tries to protect us. Unfortunately, this leads to weakness, and if we are not careful, it can lead to those muscles shrinking or contracting/becoming shorter. All these changes lead to a problem for our brains. It doesn’t know what to do about all these strange signals coming in. Unfortunately, it turns up the inflammation, sensitisation and immune changes to attempt to protect you.

CRPS of the lower limb

If this happens enough, the brain starts to change to try and protect you from all this confusion, and the limb can begin to feel like it isn’t ours anymore! We start to forget that it is there or even dislike our body parts.

Unfortunately, because CRPS can present in many different ways and is quite rare, it can take a while sometimes to diagnose/recognise, particularly as many health professionals may not see this condition commonly.

Pain specialists at Resolve Pain are experts at diagnosing this condition and use all therapies available to try and settle the condition down and improve/resolve your symptoms.

Treatment of CRPS requires us to address all the changes that have happened.

-      We use medications to dampen inflammation and immune changes.

-      We use medications and procedures to dampen yourpain and sensation changes.

-      We use physiotherapists, podiatrists and handtherapists to work on your muscles and their sensitivity.

-      We use psychologists, physiotherapists andoccupational therapists to help reverse the brain changes through graded motorimagery - often using a mirror box and other specialised tools.

While all these things can seem overwhelming, we must get onto this condition as early as possible and as intensively as possible to reverse these changes and attempt to prevent long-term harm such as persistent pain and sensory changes and permanent weakness and/or tightening ofmuscles and ligaments.

Resolve Pain will work with you to help diagnose and manage this condition, with our goals constantly to reduce your pain and symptoms and return you to your life of things you enjoy and back into your work life.

We have some links here below for more information about CRPS. (Be aware these are external links, and their content is outside our control).

CRPS Information page - Better Health Channel

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