Have you started noticing pain that seemingly appears out of thin air and without cause? You could be experiencing complex regional pain syndrome, a type of chronic pain that stems from an issue with your sympathetic nervous system.
Dr. Hui Kang and the rest of our team at Houston Pain Specialists have the expertise to determine if what you’re feeling is in fact a result of complex regional pain syndrome.
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is exactly how it sounds: complex. In this blog, we go over what we know about the condition and how we can treat it.
What exactly is CRPS?
CRPS is a chronic condition that typically starts showing symptoms after an injury, surgery, heart attack, or stroke. Symptoms may appear slowly and worsen as time goes on. There are two types of CRPS:
Formerly referred to as reflex dystrophy syndrome, Type 1 makes up 90% of CRPS cases. It occurs after an injury or illness that didn’t directly have an impact on the nerves of your affected extremity.
Formerly referred to as causalgia, Type 2 CRPS occurs after an injury specifically to your nerves, like a bullet wound.
The scientific community doesn’t entirely understand why CRPS happens, but it’s considered to be the result of a malfunctioning of your sympathetic nervous system, or improper interactions between your central and peripheral nervous systems.
When you sustain an injury, your sympathetic nervous system tells your blood vessels to shrink in order to avoid losing too much blood. Later on, it sends out signals for your blood vessels to open up again, allowing blood to travel to the damaged tissue and begin to repair it.
The sympathetic nervous system in people with CRPS receives mixed signals, which affects their body’s ability to switch off the sympathetic nervous system after an injury.
Symptoms of CRPS
CRPS is unique in that it affects blood vessels, bones, muscles, nerves, and skin all at the same time. As a result, the symptoms commonly associated with CRPS show up in a variety of different ways, including:
- Sensory feelings like burning sensations, pain, and sensitivity to touch
- Immune responses like swelling, redness, and/or warmth on the skin on the affected area
- Changes in hair and nail growth
- Changes in skin color and/or texture
People can experience CRPS differently. For some, symptoms can resolve on their own. For others, symptoms can continue for months or years. In some cases, symptoms go into remission, but there’s a possibility that they may resurface.
Diagnosis and treatment
While there is no single test that definitively diagnoses CRPS, there are multiple tests that we can perform. Those test results, combined with reviewing your medical history and current symptoms, can lead to an accurate diagnosis.
Dr. Kang is equipped to perform those tests, interpret the results, and provide you with the treatment that works best for you.
Once you’ve been diagnosed, we discuss treatment options with you. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for CRPS, but our team at Houston Pain Specialists uses the most effective treatment options, including:
- Electrical nerve stimulation
- Heat therapy
- Physical therapy
- Nerve block injections
- Spinal cord stimulation
The key to improvement and possible remission is early detection. Being aware of the signs and symptoms of CRPS better prepares you for seeking treatment.
As soon as you notice symptoms that could be CRPS, give our Houston, Texas office a call.