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NINDS Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Information Page

Synonym(s):   Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, Causalgia
Condensed from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Fact Sheet

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What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition.  The key symptom of CRPS is continuous, intense pain out of proportion to the severity of the injury, which gets worse rather than better over time. CRPS most often affects one of the arms, legs, hands, or feet.  Often the pain spreads to include the entire arm or leg.  Typical features include dramatic changes in the color and temperature of the skin over the affected limb or body part, accompanied by intense burning pain, skin sensitivity, sweating, and swelling.  Doctors aren’t sure what causes CRPS.  In some cases the sympathetic nervous system plays an important role in sustaining the pain.  Another theory is that CRPS is caused by a triggering of the immune response, which leads to the characteristic inflammatory symptoms of redness, warmth, and swelling in the affected area.

Is there any treatment?

Because there is no cure for CRPS, treatment is aimed at relieving painful symptoms.  Doctors may prescribe topical analgesics, antidepressants, corticosteroids, and opioids to relieve pain.  However, no single drug or combination of drugs has produced consistent long-lasting improvement in symptoms.  Other treatments may include physical therapy, sympathetic nerve block, spinal cord stimulation, and intrathecal drug pumps to deliver opioids and local anesthetic agents via the spinal cord.

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis for CRPS varies from person to person. Spontaneous remission from symptoms occurs in certain individuals.  Others can have unremitting pain and crippling, irreversible changes in spite of treatment.

What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct research relating to CRPS in laboratories at the NIH and also support additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country.  NINDS-supported scientists are studying new approaches to treat CRPS and intervene more aggressively after traumatic injury to lower the chances of developing the disorder.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Clinical Trials

Organizations

Column1 Column2
American RSDHope Organization
P.O. Box 875
Harrison, ME   04040-0875
rsdhope@roadrunner.com
http://www.rsdhope.org
Tel: 207-583-4589

International Research Foundation for RSD/CRPS
1910 East Busch Boulevard
Tampa, FL   33612
info@rsdfoundation.org
http://www.rsdfoundation.org/
Tel: 813-907-2312
Fax: 813-830-7446

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association (RSDSA)
P.O. Box 502
99 Cherry Street
Milford, CT   06460
info@rsds.org
http://www.rsds.org
Tel: 203-877-3790 877-662-7737
Fax: 203-882-8362

 
Related NINDS Publications and Information
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Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892



NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last updated July 22, 2014