Myths and Facts About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

With a sea of varying symptoms and waves of flare-ups and remissions, chronic pain can make you feel as if you’re swimming against the current. If medications and other traditional treatments don’t help, and your doctor can’t put a name on your pain, it may be complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). 

This misunderstood condition calls for an expert in pain management who understands CRPS and your frustration. Dr. Damon Christian Kimes at Roswell Pain and Weight Loss Specialists helps CRPS sufferers throughout Roswell, Georgia, and beyond manage their CRPS symptoms and live life on their own terms despite their condition. 

The first step in treating CRPS is understanding it, which can be tricky since the medical community doesn’t understand it well, and the general public has perpetuated misinformation about this confusing condition. That’s why Dr. Kimes has compiled this list of myths and facts to help you get to know CRPS better.

What is complex regional pain syndrome?

In the simplest terms — chronic or complex regional pain syndrome describes pain that persists after an injury has healed. It’s typically felt in the legs or arms and is the result of a past injury (such as sprains and fractures), past surgery, stroke, limb immobilization, and even cuts and needle sticks from injections. 

The primary CRPS symptom is pain that exceeds the severity of the cause. For instance, a light touch can trigger excruciating pain. You may also experience:

Although little is known about this confusing pain pattern, it’s generally accepted that it stems from nerve damage or inflammation. CRPS I refers to pain that stems from an unknown damaged nerve, and CRPS II comes from an identifiable damaged nerve — but there’s not much more definitive information than that.  And lack of information often breeds misinformation, including the following myths about CRPS.

Myth #1: CRPS will resolve on its own

The fact is, CRPS often does resolve on its own, but this typically occurs when the case is mild and when the patient is in good general health. However, when it lingers, CRPS often worsens and may lead to disability. Younger people and those who are nonsmokers tend to have a better chance at recovery than older sufferers, smokers, and those who have underlying health conditions. 

Myth #2: CRPS is a mental health issue

The fact is that CRPS is a physical issue and has nothing to do with mental or emotional health — although the chronic pain may lead to mental and emotional issues. This myth developed as a way to explain the unexplainable, but the visible physical symptoms, including skin color changes, skin temperature and texture fluctuations, limb atrophy, and test measurements on a pain scale all point to a legitimate physical cause.

Myth #3: CRPS occurs only after major injuries

The fact is that CRPS can happen to anyone at any age after any trauma. While severe sprains and broken bones are easy to identify and blame, simple needle sticks in a lab or minor cuts and minimally invasive surgical procedures can also trigger CRPS.

Myth # 4: CRPS always responds to nerve blocks

The fact is that there are two more subcategories of CRPS: sympathetically independent pain (SIP) and sympathetically maintained pain (SMP). SMP typically responds well to nerve block treatments, while SIP does not. However, even when nerve blocks improve your symptoms, the effects are temporary. 

Myth #5: CRPS diagnoses are just guesses

The fact is, several medical tests can accurately detect nerve conduction and nerve patterns. For instance, magnetic resonance imaging can identify abnormalities in the bone and bone marrow that indicate nerve damage, and triple-phase bone scans can often help locate injured nerves.  

Living with CRPS

If your CRPS hasn’t resolved and you live with flare-ups and chronic pain, Dr. Kimes can help you manage your symptoms. Physical therapy is always the best place to start because a strong musculoskeletal system supports your body and may relieve pressure from your nerves. Physical therapy along with massage therapy also increases your circulation, which helps ward off potential secondary problems, such as changes in your brain or spinal cord. 

Medications can also help minimize the severity of your symptoms and the frequency of your flare-ups. If over-the-counter pain relievers don’t help, Dr. Kimes may prescribe stronger medications or recommend an injection of a corticosteroid. 

Dr. Kimes also has significant success in helping patients reduce the pain of CRPS through platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. This treatment taps into the healing properties in your own blood to heal your nerves. 

If you have CRPS or suspect you might, don’t despair. You can get the answers you're looking for, dispel the myths, and find a treatment that works at Roswell Pain and Weight Loss Specialists. To schedule an appointment, call us or book a consultation online today. 

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