#iPainSummit2019: An Overview of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

The iPain Summit 2019 took place from November 14th-16th, 2019. Patient Worthy had the privilege to attend this event and cover it live on social media. This summit was focused on chronic pain and how to help patients who are dealing with it. Chronic pain itself is a symptom and is not usually a condition on its own, nor is it a rare disease (as is our focus most of the time). 

Rare Diseases and Chronic Pain

However, there are rare diseases and conditions that can inflict chronic pain on the patient. One such example is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). I recalled several patients with this syndrome being in attendance at the summit and Dr. Phillip Getson delivered a presentation about complex regional pain syndrome that aimed to inform patients about the syndrome and direct them to resources for support and treatment. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the illness and summarize some of the points Dr. Getson emphasized during his talk. 

What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

Complex regional pain syndrome, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, is an unusual condition which is characterized by continuous pain in a given area of the body that is disproportionate to any known abnormality or injury in said area. Pain is described as deep, aching, and burning, or sometime cold with elevated skin sensitivity. Other symptoms include abnormal swelling and sweating near the affected area as well as limited range of motion, changes to nail or hair growth, and changes to skin color.

The disease usually appears following an event such as injury or surgical operation in the affected region. Random stimuli appear to trigger pain symptoms as the syndrome progresses, such as changes in temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure as well as certain medications, poor diet, and stress.

Beyond regional changes and pain, complex regional pain syndrome can also inflict systemic symptoms such as gastroparesis, irritable bowel syndrome, vomiting, migraines, vision problems, and skin changes. 


A variety of treatments may be attempted for this syndrome. These include surgery, physical and occupational therapy, certain medications, interventional pain management, infusions, and implanted devices. Ketamine can be an important part of treatment for some patients and is recommended for infusion during surgery as this can reduce pain and prevent spread of symptoms to other parts of the body.

Dr. Getson also recommends that patients attempt to follow a basic daily exercise routine (“whatever you are physically able/willing to do”) and also recommends the use of supplements like magnesium, calcium, probiotics, vitamins, and fish oil. He also says to avoid ingredients like aspartame, certain additives, dairy products, yeast/gluten, caffeine, simple carbs, and foods from the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant).

Check out Dr. Getson’s presentation here.

To learn more about complex regional pain syndrome, click here.

To learn more about the International Pain Foundation, click here.

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