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What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome)?

CRPS Fact Sheet



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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also referred to as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD), is a chronic progressive disease characterized by severe pain, swelling and changes in the skin. Experts believe that CRPS (or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome) occurs as a result of dysfunction in the central or peripheral nervous system. 

CRPS (or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome) can strike at any age and affects both men and women, although most experts agree it is more common in young women. 

What are the CRPS Symptoms (or RSD symptoms)?

The key CRPS symptom (or RSD symptom) is continuous, intense pain out of proportion to the severity of the injury (if an injury has occurred). This pain gets worse rather than better over time. CRPS (or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome) most often affects one of the extremities and is often accompanied by:

  • Burning pain
  • Increased skin sensitivity
  • Changes in skin temperature
  • Changes in skin color
  • Changes in skin texture
  • Changes in nail or hair growth patterns
  • Swelling or stiffness in affected joints
  • Motor disability

How does CRPS (or RSD) progress?

There are three stages of CRPS (or RSD):

Stage 1: CRPS (or RSD) begins as severe pain in a limb. The pain might be accompanied by swelling, sensitivity to touch and temperature, and some skin changes. Skin changes include drying and tearing. This stage of CRPS (or RSD) is thought to last from 1 to 3 months.

Stage 2: Stage two of CRPS (or RSD) lasts approximately 3-6 months. It is characterized by intensifying pain, swelling, decreased hair growth, cracked, brittle, grooved, or spotty nails, softened bones, stiff joints, and/or weak muscle tone.

Stage 3: CRPS (or RSD) patients experience limited movement in the affected limb and often irreversible skin damage. Pain becomes unyielding and may involve the entire limb or affected area. There may be muscle atrophy and involuntary contractions of the muscles or tendons that flex the joints. 

What causes CRPS(or RSD)?

Doctors are not sure exactly what causes CRPS (or RSD). The most recent theories suggest that many cases of CRPS (or RSD) occur after a forceful trauma to an arm or leg, such as a gunshot wound, surgery, heart attacks, injections, fractures, and even sprained ankles. It is not well understood why these injuries sometimes trigger CRPS (or RSD).

What CRPS treatment (or RSD Treatment) options are available?

Dramatic improvement and even remission of CRPS (or RSD) is possible. CRPS treatment (or RSD Treatment) options include:

For additional information on Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome) please call Southeast Pain and Spine Care to schedule an appointment with one of our pain management doctors.

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Southeast Pain and Spine Care was founded in 1997 because there was a need for patients to receive quality, nonsurgical pain relief. Southeast Pain and Spine Care’s clinical model optimizes revenue, provides ancillary revenue opportunities and allows patients to receive top of the line care by physician anaesthesiologists and neurologists. Want to learn more about how we can help your hospital earn additional revenue. Request a consultation with our administrative team.

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1515 Mockingbird Lane, Suite 680
Charlotte, NC 28209


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