Breaking It Down: The Nitty Gritty of CRPS

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS, is a chronic neurological condition that usually affects a patient’s arm or leg, but can present elsewhere on the body.

While the medical community cannot say with certainty what causes it, CRPS is thought to be triggered by an injury, stroke, or heart attack. The pain is usually disproportionate to the cause, is chronic, and can be debilitating, but an early diagnosis and treatment can improve the patient’s outcome.

Symptoms can include a throbbing or burning sensation in the arms, hands, legs, or feet, discoloration of the skin, sensitivity to cold stimulation, and joint swelling. This list is not conclusive, as patients may experience other symptoms too. Generally, healthcare providers must rule out other conditions (such as arthritis) before diagnosing CRPS.

When a patient is experiencing acute CRPS symptoms, such as swelling, corticosteroids are usually the front-line treatment, but long-term use can cause side effects that outweigh the benefits of this treatment.

Other treatments for CRPS include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, rehabilitation therapy, and psychotherapy. More research is needed to address treating CRPS, and those who suffer from it will agree.

For more information about locating a CRPS support group within the United States, click here. Outside the US, click here.


Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn is passionate about raising awareness of rare diseases and disorders and helping people connect with the resources that may ease their journey. Erica has been a caregiver, and is a patient, herself, so she completely relates to the rare disease community--on a deeply personal level.

Follow us