Complex regional pain syndrome, a chronic nerve disorder, usually occurs after an injury. Early treatment for the syndrome is most effective. In fact, if you don’t get it treated early, it can result in atrophy (wasting tissue) or tightened muscles — both of which occur if the pain keeps you from using your limb as much as you should.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can change over time and are not the same for every person. However, common complaints include severe pain, continuous burning or throbbing, and swelling. The affected area can also show a change in skin temperature, and you might experience joint stiffness, muscle spasms, and decreased mobility. You might notice that your pain becomes worse when you are stressed. It can spread to the entire limb or even to your opposite limb.
What are the causes of complex regional pain syndrome?
There are two types of complex regional pain syndrome. Type 1 occurs after an illness or an injury that did not damage any nerves, while type 2 follows a specific nerve injury. No matter which type you experience, a common characteristic of the condition is that the resulting pain is more severe than the initial injury. There are no tests to diagnose complex regional pain syndrome, so your pain specialist will need to learn about your medical history and ask you a series of questions about your symptoms to determine if you have it.
How is it treated?
The treatment of complex regional pain syndrome often depends on the cause. Sympathetic nerve blocks involve the injection of an anesthetic in order to block pain signals sent from the nerves to the brain. Spinal cord stimulation also works to decrease the pain signal, and can also be trialed before permanent implantation to determine if it is effective.