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5 Facts We Want You to Know About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Dec 14, 2023
5 Facts We Want You to Know About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
If the name is any indication, complex regional pain syndrome isn’t a very pleasant experience, but it’s usually a finite one. This is just one of many facts we want to make about this condition.

When you hear a name like complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), you understand right away that the condition isn’t going to be pleasant. One step that can make dealing with CRPS a little less challenging is understanding all you can about the condition so you're more informed and better able to respond.

As pain management specialists, the Commonwealth Pain & Spine team has decades of combined experience helping our patients manage complex regional pain syndrome. With our vast hands-on experience comes considerable knowledge, some of which we want to share here.

1. CRPS is more common in middle age

CRPS is when you experience prolonged pain and inflammation, usually after an injury, due to a malfunctioning nervous system.

Each year in the United States, about 200,000 people are affected by CRPS, with women outpacing men.

While you can develop CRPS at any age, it peaks at about 40. Older people aren’t as vulnerable to CRPS because they have a diminished inflammatory response. At the other end of the age spectrum, younger people don’t typically develop CRPS because they heal more quickly.

2. CRPS occurs after injury but not always

In most cases — about 90% — CRPS develops about 4-6 weeks after damage to your peripheral nerves. For example, one of the more common causes is fractures, but CRPS can also develop on the heels of:

  • Surgery
  • Sprains
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Amputation

In the remaining 10% of cases of CRPS, the problem typically stems from an internal nerve issue.

3. CRPS usually develops in a limb

Most cases of CRPS occur in your limbs, meaning your hand, arm, leg, or foot.

4. CRPS — more than just pain

Pain is definitely the headliner when it comes to CRPS, for good reason. At its peak, this pain can be intense and occur at the slightest touch, though even a slight breeze can set it off. 

Beyond the pain, the damage and inflammation in your peripheral nerves can also lead to:

  • Numbness
  • Changes in your skin temperature
  • Discoloration in your skin
  • Changes in the texture of your skin
  • Stiffness in your limb
  • Swelling
  • Rapid or no nail and/or hair growth 

The severity of these symptoms varies from person to person — the lucky ones have only mild symptoms, while the pain severely disables others.

5. CRPS usually goes away eventually

There is some good news: CRPS usually goes away on its own after the nerves in the affected area heal and regrow.

That said, some go on to deal with chronic CRPS that lasts six months or longer.

Whether short- or long-term, there are ways we can minimize the discomfort to help you manage your CRPS. From medications to physical therapy, we develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the condition from several angles.

If you or a loved one struggles with CRPS, let’s meet to discuss a treatment plan that can help you move forward. To get started, please schedule an appointment at one of our 21 locations in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.