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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic (prolonged) and severe pain condition that can spread throughout the entire body. The condition is marked by:

  • continuous, intense pain out of proportion to the severity of the injury
  • pain that gets worse over time
  • symptoms that may affect every part of the body 

Other traits may include:

  • dramatic changes in the color and temperature of the skin over the affected limb or body part
  • intense swelling, sweating, skin sensitivity or burning pain

There is no known cause or cure.

How is it treated?

Treatment aims to relieve painful symptoms and includes:

  • Medication such as topical analgesics, antidepressants, corticosteroids, and opioids
  • Physical therapy
  • Nerve blocks,  injections of medication near nerves to provide relief and comfort
  • Pain medication administered directly to the fluid around the spinal cord
  • Spinal cord stimulation

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis for CRPS varies from person to person. Spontaneous remission from symptoms may occur for some, while others may continue to experience pain in spite of treatment.

What research is being done?

Scientists are studying new approaches to treat CRPS and intervene more aggressively after traumatic injury to lower the chances of developing the disorder.