CRPS is a condition that causes severe and chronic pain, as well as inflammation and visible changes in the affected limb. Pain is the first symptom of the disease that is noticed and reported by patients, and it is noteworthy because the CRPS pain is much more intense than what would normally be experienced as a result of the injury causing it. CRPS pain is commonly described by patients as a burning or tingling sensation.
Causes of CRPS Pain
An injury to a nerve or limb is what initially triggers CRPS. The body responds to the injury in the normal fashion. The pain receptors in the central nervous system receive the signal from the hurt limb or nerve. Then the CNS sends a response out to the immune system and the immune system responds to the site of injury and begins to work at healing the issue.
CRPS begins in the central nervous system, in the brain. The pain signals do not cease, even after the injury is healed. This keeps the immune response triggered, which causes the limb to remain swollen and irritated. This becomes a cycle in which the brain is no longer responding in a normal way. The condition of the limb worsens instead of improving after the injury is healed. The skin may change color, temperature, and the texture may change. The limb becomes extremely sensitive to even the mildest touch, and mobility starts to decrease.
Doctors do not know what differentiates patients that develop CRPS from those that do not. The initial injury that causes CRPS can range in severity from a scratch to a broken bone. There is no particular demographic that is more prone to CRPS, but woman seem to contract the disease more often than
Effects of CRPS Pain
One of the most debilitating aspects of CRPS is the effect that constant pain has on mental and emotional state. When the body is in a constant state of pain, the brain will not allow a person to focus on normal daily tasks or activities. This inability to participate in hobbies or work a job can be devastating to the patient’s self esteem and sense of well being. Many patients dealing with CRPS pain develop depression or anxiety disorders. The addition of an emotional disorder can make coping with or treating CRPS pain even more difficult.
Treatments for CRPS
The first aspect that any kind of treatment must address is the CRPS pain. Once the pain is decreased, the patient will be able to focus on the healing aspects of the therapy. It is important that the patient communicate about results or lack of results when it comes to the treatment that the doctor is prescribing. CRPS is a highly individualized disorder, and there are many different forms of therapy available. Doctors have found that it is most effective to treat CRPS pain with a combination of physical and drug therapy. Drug therapy usually eases CRPS pain either by blocking the pain signal within the central nervous system or by reducing the inflammation in the limb, which will decrease the pressure in that area. Without the constant CRPS pain, the patient’s mental state may improve. This can be the first step in overcoming emotional disorders and other impediments to the success of treatment.
Types of CRPS drug therapy include:
• Receptor blockers
Physical therapy is a vital element of treatment, as it can help to improve function and increase mobility of the affected limb. Certain types of therapy are designed to decrease the sensitivity that is a common
characteristic of the disease. Physical therapy can also assist in decreasing the pain of CRPS that can come from lack of use of the limb.
Types of CRPS physical therapy include:
• Electrical nerve stimulation
• Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
• Aqua therapy
• Weight bearing exercises
• Tactile desensitization
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