Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS, also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, RSD) is an uncommon condition first observed during the American civil war, then called Causalgia. CRPS is usually triggered by an injury or surgery but can occur spontaneously. CRPS is characterised by severe pain, swelling, temperature and colour changes and motor dysfunction. CRPS pain continues long after the original injury has healed.

CRPS is poorly understood and a cause has not yet been found although there are some promising areas of research. It is generally agreed that the body produces a faulty response to an injury where normal inflammatory responses such as pain, swelling and temperature changes do not stop once the damage is repaired. This leads to a ‘feedback loop’ within the nervous system making the body more and more sensitive to pain. It is not known why some people get CRPS and others do not.

CRPS is difficult to treat but pain medications and physiotherapy are used to limit the effects of CRPS, often in conjunction with other therapies and treatments. More research is needed to develop better medications and treatments for CRPS.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a rare neurological disorder, which causes chronic pain that cannot be controlled and can affect all areas of the body but most commonly occurs in the limbs. It is a debilitating and disabling inflammatory condition that can be caused by minor injury (sprain), broken/fractured bones, surgery or can appear spontaneously without known cause.

CRPS is believed to be the result of dysfunction in the central or peripheral nervous systems where the signals between the affected limb or body part and the brain are misinterpreted resulting in the following:

  • burning” pain.
  • hypersensitivity of the skin.
  • changes in skin temperature: warmer or cooler compared to the opposite extremity.
  • changes in skin colour: often blotchy, purple, pale, or red.
  • changes in skin texture: shiny and thin, and sometimes excessively sweaty.
  • changes in nail and hair growth patterns.
  • swelling and stiffness in affected joints.
  • motor disability, with decreased ability to move the affected body part.

CRPS can strike anyone at any age and affects both men and women, but statistics show it is more common in women.

Very little is known or understood about CRPS and there is no cure.
More information about CRPS: