What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a type of neuropathic pain condition where high levels of nerve impulses are sent to an affected area of your body. This chronic pain syndrome was previously called reflex sympathetic dystrophy and may be the result of injury or dysfunction in the peripheral or central nervous system.
This syndrome has a variety of health consequences and some of the more common symptoms include intense pain in your hands, arms, feet, or legs, which worsens over time. You may also have new patterns of rapid hair growth, stiff or swollen joints, changes in skin color, or skin temperature that is different than the rest of your body.
Common complex regional pain syndrome facts:
- CRPS occurs more often in women than men
- CRPS affects both adults and children
- CRPS is more common in young adults aged 20 to 35
- CRPS can worsen with stress and anxiety
How is CRPS Diagnosed?
CRPS can be a difficult condition to diagnose. While there is no specific diagnostic test for complex regional pain syndrome, if you suspect you may have CRPS, the first step is to see your doctor. She will do a thorough medical exam and complete health history to determine if you have CRPS or another type of neuropathic pain.
The Cleveland Clinic mentions that CRPS is diagnosed via observation of a variety of symptoms including:
- The presence of trauma or injury
- Experiencing more than a normal amount of pain from an injury
- Any changes in the appearance of an affected area
- No evidence of other causes of pain
Your healthcare provider may order certain lab work, blood work or diagnostic testing to rule out other conditions as possible causes of your nerve pain. Common tests for this disorder include x-rays, bone scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) just to name a few.
If your health checkup results in a CRPS diagnosis, your primary health provider will most likely refer you to a neurologist for ongoing testing and treatment. A doctor that specializes in neurology will help you manage your pain and make recommendations for various treatments such as occupational therapy or ketamine infusion therapy.
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Are CRPS and Fibromyalgia the Same?
If you are wondering if CRPS and fibromyalgia are the same, here are some interesting facts. CRPS is a rare disease affecting about 200,000 people annually in the United States, while around 10 million people in the U.S. are affected by fibromyalgia on a yearly basis.
CRPS is often confused with other health conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, muscular dystrophy, lupus, nerve entrapment, or even fibromyalgia. Most fibromyalgia patients mention feeling pain all over their body, while the majority of complex regional pain syndrome patients feel pain in a specific part of their bodies, such as an arm or leg.
In an article published in Nature Reviews Rheumatology, author Geoffrey Littlejohn of the Department of Medicine at Monash University in Australia says, “Although fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) have distinct clinical phenotypes, they do share many other features.”
Littlejohn goes on to mention, “Fibromyalgia and CRPS can both be triggered by specific traumatic events, although fibromyalgia is most commonly associated with psychological trauma and CRPS is most often associated with physical trauma, which is frequently deemed routine or minor by the patient.”
While you may be tempted to read through a list of symptoms and make a self-diagnosis, only a qualified healthcare professional or medical team can accurately diagnose your health condition.
What is the Best Treatment for CRPS?
Sympathetic nerve blocks are just one of the medical options to bring pain relief to anyone suffering from reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Over the counter pain, relievers including aspirin or ibuprofen can help bring relief to mild pain and inflammation. Other CRPS therapy options include:
- Intravenous ketamine
- Medications such as Fosamax that help prevent bone loss
- Sympathetic blocks
- Spinal cord stimulation
A variety of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications are also used to treat CRPS. When these don’t provide relief, your doctor may prescribe stronger drugs including morphine or other opioid narcotics. You might also consider newer treatments such as ketamine infusion therapy that doesn’t have the same addiction risk factor that opioids do.
Can CRPS be Cured?
The pain associated with CRPS may go into remission but that’s not to say it won’t return in the future. While there is no cure for CRPS, a variety of treatment options can bring relief to your pain symptoms and improve your health and wellbeing. Prescription drugs, OTC medications, psychological support, and physical therapy treatments can be used in combination to provide pain relief and help manage your CRPS pain symptoms.
Cleveland Clinic. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) Diagnosis and Tests. Retrieved from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12085-complex-regional-pain-syndrome-crps/diagnosis-and-tests
Sunali Wadehra, MD. Practical Pain Management. Ketamine for Chronic Pain Management: Current Role and Future Directions. Retrieved from:
Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials. When Nothing Seems to Help Your CRPS, Ketamine Pain Treatments May Bring Relief. Retrieved from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/when-nothing-seems-to-help-your-crps-ketamine-pain-treatments-may-bring-relief/
Ketamine for the treatment of CRPS
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has published a Complex Regional Pain Fact Sheet filled with interesting medical data including emerging treatment being used for CRPS. The fact sheet mentions that, “Investigators are using low doses of ketamine—a strong anesthetic—given intravenously for several days to either reduce substantially or eliminate the chronic pain of CRPS. In certain clinical settings, ketamine has been shown to be useful in treating pain that does not respond well to other treatments.”
Ketamine therapy, in the form of FDA, approved nasal spray or intravenous (IV) infusions are both offering great promise in the treatment of various pain conditions and doctors, pain treatment clinics, and other medical professionals have begun to prescribe low doses of this medication to patients with nerve pain conditions such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
Contact Our Los Angeles Ketamine Clinic Today!
If you are dealing with complex regional pain syndrome, and other treatment methods including occupational therapy don’t seem to help with your pain symptoms, reach out to our caring and expert staff at Pacific Ketamine Institute and find out if Ketamine Therapy for CRPS is right for you.
Give PKI a call today for help managing your reflex sympathetic dystrophy pain symptoms so you can get back on track to good health and living your best life.
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