Understanding Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome

You expect to feel pain when you break a bone or sprain an ankle. And once it heals, you expect that pain to go away. But what if it doesn’t? Although it’s rare, some traumatic injuries keep hurting even after healing is complete. This phenomenon is called chronic (or complex) regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

Specializing in pain management, our team at Arlington Pain & Therapy in Arlington and Mansfield, TX understands this unique disease and can help you navigate the symptoms. From expert diagnostics to the most advanced treatments, we can help you reclaim a pain-free life and get back to business as usual.

Why does it still hurt?

Chronic regional pain syndrome describes pain that persists beyond the normal healing time after an injury or surgery. In most cases, once tissues knit back together, you regain full function of your muscles, ligaments, and bones — without pain. 

But, once in a while, your peripheral nerve system malfunctions and continues to send pain signals to your brain, even when there is no physical stimulus. The injury is gone, but the pain is still very much there — and real. 

CRPS is usually felt in one limb, like your arm or leg or hand. Although pain is the common denominator, other symptoms include a burning sensation, tingling or numbness, unusual perspiration patterns, stiff joints, tremors and jerking, and even skin discoloration.

What type do I have?

CRPS is divided into two categories. We run several diagnostic tests to determine exactly which one you have.

CRPS-I means you have no apparent nerve damage causing your symptoms.

CRPS-II means you have clear nerve damage causing your symptoms.

Knowing which type you have helps us develop the best treatment plan for you. 

What caused it?

Most cases of CRPS stem from an injury, such as a broken bone, lacerations, and carpal tunnel surgery.

While little research has been conducted on the underlying reasons for CRPS, we do know that it involves abnormal activity in your nerves, particularly in the tiny fibers called axons that communicate with your blood vessels. 

If these fibers are damaged, they can trigger inflammation, as well as abnormal nerve signals and blood vessel functioning, that result in your CRPS symptoms.

When your blood vessels don’t function properly, you’ll see the signs. When the vessels dilate or expand, you may see redness and swelling. When they constrict, you may notice a blue or white tinge to your skin. And that’s just on the surface. Underneath, your muscles and soft tissues may be deprived of much-needed oxygen, which leads to pain and other symptoms.

Why me?

No one knows exactly why CRPS affects some people and not others. Two patients with the same broken bone or undergoing the same surgery can have completely different healing experiences. One can walk away with no residual effects; the other can suffer from ongoing CRPS. 

Although women tend to get CRPS more often than men, it’s a fairly nondiscriminatory syndrome that affects about 250,000 people in the United States, most under the age of 40.

What can be done?

If you have CRPS, don’t despair. There are treatments that can help you manage and even overcome the pain. We always start with the most conservative methods, knowing that some patients respond to them right away and will need nothing more to stop the pain. Here’s the progression of treatments we generally recommend:

Whichever level of treatment you need to ease your CRPS symptoms, our team comes alongside you throughout the process. We know that not everyone in your life may understand the invisible signs of CRPS pain — but we do.

If you’re suffering from CRPS and don’t know where to turn for relief, give us a call at one of our three locations or fill out our online form, and start feeling better today. 

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