Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy)

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition most often affecting one of the limbs, usually after an injury or trauma to that limb.

There is no diagnostic tool to test for CRPS. Diagnosis is usually based on the individual’s medical history and symptoms that they are currently experiencing. Careful examination and assessment is required before diagnosing a patient with CRPS, it is important that any diagnosis is made by a health profession who is familiar with the signs and symptoms of CRPS. This may be by a doctor, occupational therapist and physiotherapist just to name a few. If you suspect someone or yourself to have CRPS in the upper limb do contact us for an assessment and consult as soon as possible to prevent further progression of the condition.

Common Symptoms:

  • Pain from sources that do not typically induces pain
  • Increase response to a painful stimulus
  • Significant swelling that could lead to joint stiffness
  • Discoloration of the hand and palm, usually bluish and redness
  • Abnormal temperature changes to affected limb
  • Abnormal hair growth and increase sweat over palm

How is CRPS treated?             
There is no simple cure and no single recommended treatment for CRPS. Treatment aims to restore movement and function of the affected limb. The sooner appropriate treatment begins, the quicker the improvement occurs.

Different treatment options are available to reduce symptoms of CRPS, and help to increase your function. At Hand Works, your therapy program will be tailored based on your symptoms and presentation. Your therapist will discuss these with you and will also talk to you about self-management strategies and movement patterns to assist in improving your condition.

Things to remember

  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a painful condition of the arm, hand, leg or foot that occurs after a complex injury such as multiple fractures to a limb
  • There is no simple cure and no single recommended treatment for CRPS – treatment aims to restore movement and function of the affected limb
  • Most people recover from CRPS
  • Counselling and psychological support can help a person who has CRPS cope with stress, depression and chronic pain
  • Seeking help and guidance early in the injury will allow you to have a better outcome