What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)?

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

CPRS refers to a chronic pain condition, usually affecting a limb after injury, lasting six months or more. The cause is thought to be damage to or malfunction of the central nervous system. The central nervous system comprises the brain and spinal cord; the peripheral nervous system involves nerve signalling from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) Symptoms

Sufferers have prolonged or excessive pain and may suffer swelling in the affected area or changes in skin colour and temperature. People without a confirmed nerve injury are classified as CPRS-I sufferers; those with a diagnosed nerve injury are classified as CPRS-II.

The constant pain experienced by CPRS sufferers is often described as a burning sensation or like pins and needles, and it may spread beyond the affected area.

The colour and temperature changes in the skin are generally due to damage to the nerves that control circulation and blood flow.

Ketamine and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

The American Association of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine is in the process of preparing guidelines for the use of ketamine in pain management. Meanwhile, medical researchers are determining what impact the drug has on pain.

Some studies have shown that low doses of intravenous ketamine may substantially reduce pain in CRPS patients. Patients receive only about a tenth of the ketamine dose used in anesthesia. Intravenous ketamine treatment normally does not improve function, however, it has shown to help patients cope with the painful, chronic pain.

Coping and Support

Living with complex regional pain syndrome can be challenging, especially when friends and family can’t relate to suffering from a chronic and painful condition such as CRPS.

It is important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally:

  • Help others understand what you are experiencing by sharing information about complex regional pain syndrome with them.
  • Stay connected with your family and friends.
  • Allow yourself to get the rest that you need.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Pursue normal daily activities as much as you can.
  • Maintain routines and hobbies that you enjoy as best as you can.
  • Ask for support from a health professional to get around potential obstacles.
  • Consider support groups or counselling to help you cope emotionally.
Treatment for CRPS

Early treatment might help improve complex regional pain syndrome symptoms. Often, a combination of different treatments, tailored to your specific case, is necessary.

Medications for CRPS:

  • Pain relievers (over-the-counter or prescriptions).
  • Antidepressants and anticonvulsants.
  • Corticosteroids.
  • Bone-loss medications.
  • Sympathetic nerve-blocking medication.
  • Intravenous ketamine.

Therapies for CRPS:

  • Rehabilitation and physical therapy.
  • Heat therapy and topical analgesics.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
  • Spinal cord stimulation.
  • Intrathecal drug pumps.

Alternative Therapies for CRPS:

  • Behaviour modification.
  • Acupuncture.
  • Relaxation techniques.

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