Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition characterized by extreme pain. CRPS typically affects a limb, such as a leg or arm. In many cases, CRPS pain may prevent patients from using the limb as much as possible. Many patients find that CRPS pain worsens as time passes, as opposed to healing.
There is no known cure for the condition. However, patients may undergo treatment of CRPS through medical treatments, drugs, and physical therapy. Therapy typically consists of a treatment plan that is personalized for each individual’s symptoms. The various treatments are used to alleviate CRPS pain and maintain limb mobilization.
Medicinal Treatment of CRPS
Treatment of CRPS typically involves some sort of pain relief medication. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief treatment of CRPS may be used for pain and inflammation symptoms. These can include ibuprofen and aspirin, as found in OTC pain relief brands such as Motrin and Advil. Naproxen may also be used, such as Aleve. The patient’s doctor may prescribe stronger pain relief treatment of CRPS if OTC products do not improve the condition.
Other treatment of CRPS can include medicines such as:
- Antidepressants and anticonvulsants, which can treat pain originating from nerve damage
- Bone-loss medications to prevent bone loss from lack of limb use
- Corticosteroids to improve limb mobility and reduce inflammation
- Nerve-block therapy, which involves injection of anesthetic medication into affected nerves
Treatment of CRPS may involve physical therapy. Physical therapy can include guided exercises that work to encourage mobility, relieve pain, and build strength in the affected limb. Physical therapy is typically more effective during early stages of CRPS. Therefore, early diagnosis has a significant impact on the efficacy of physical therapy treatment of CRPS.
Topical treatment of CRPS includes application of heat and cold to the affected area. Applying cold can help to relieve sweating and swelling. If the limb temperature is cooler than the rest of the body, the application of heat may provide relief to the patient. Topical analgesics may also be used to reduce hypersensitivity.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a treatment of CRPS that involves the application of electrical impulses to the patient’s affected nerve endings. Spinal cord stimulation may also be used. This treatment of CRPS involves the insertion of small electrodes along the patient’s spinal cord. Small electrical currents are then delivered to the spinal cord. As a result, the patient may experience pain relief.
Surgical Treatment of CRPS
Surgical treatment of CRPS is often used for patients who receive favorable yet temporary results from nerve-block treatments. Sympathectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the sympathetic nerve. The sympathetic nerve runs down the spinal column.
During a sympathectomy, a portion of the patient’s sympathetic nerve is cut and cauterized, or sealed. This treatment of CRPS is believed to suppress activity in the affected area, thereby reducing pain. However, sympathectomy treatment of CRPS is controversial. In some cases, it may worsen CRPS symptoms.
Alternative Treatment of CRPS
Alternative treatment of CRPS may include methods such as:
- Acupuncture or acupressure. These treatments utilize thin needles to relieve pressure points in the affected area.
- Nutritional supplements. Vitamins, minerals, and added antioxidants may be recommended by a nutritional specialist. These supplements are thought to improve and strengthen the immune system, which may in turn have a positive influence on CRPS symptoms.
- Herbal medicines. Herbal treatment of CRPS may help to reduce pain and inflammation in the affected area.
- Special diet. Many specialists believe that certain foods may have inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Implementing a special diet may help to relieve CRPS inflammation.
Ameer, Khalid, et al. “Diagnosis and Management of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).” Pakistan Armed Forces Medical Journal 4 (2010). Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Aug.
Bailey, Jacqueline, et al. “Imaging and Clinical Evidence of Sensorimotor Problems in CRPS: Utilizing Novel Treatment Approaches.” Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology. 8.3 (2013): 564-575. Print.
“Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Fact Sheet.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. National Institutes of Health, 12 Jul 2013. Web. 2 Aug 2013. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/reflex_sympathetic_dystrophy/detail_reflex_sympathetic_dystrophy.htm.
Langstaff, Michelle. “Alternative Therapy Brings Relief.” RSDSA. Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association. Web. 2 Aug 2013. http://www.rsds.org/4/stories/alternative_therapy.html.
“New Complex Regional Pain Syndromes Study Findings Have Been Reported from Pain Center.” Biotech Week 8 Feb. 2012: 692. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.
Turk, Dennis C., Hilary D. Wilson, and Alex Cahana. “Pain 2: Treatment of Chronic Non-Cancer Pain.” The Lancet 377.9784 (2011): 2226-35. ProQuest. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.