What Is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

Sometimes, severe workplace injuries result in a complication called complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS. Individuals who develop CRPS experience chronic intense pain to the injured area caused by nerve damage.

Read on to learn more about the diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment of CRPS.

Signs of CRPS

People who have this condition describe a throbbing, burning pain, often out of proportion to the severity of the original injury. CRPS can also occur after surgery or cardiovascular illness. The affected area may swell and feel sensitive, have an unusual color or temperature, alternate between hot and cold temperatures and/or exhibit limited mobility or muscle atrophy. Symptoms often worsen over time and sometimes spread to other body parts.

CRPS most commonly affects women and those in the 20 to 40 age group. However, anyone can develop this condition after a surgery or injury.

CRPS diagnosis

Doctors have a limited understanding of why some people develop CRPS after a traumatic injury. Although this syndrome is rare, it is usually associated with a severe fracture, crushing injury or other forceful impacts.

No tests for CRPS currently exist, so diagnosis depends on your medical history and current symptoms. Your doctor may also test to rule out conditions with a similar presentation, such as Lyme disease.

Managing CRPS

While some people with CRPS experience relief with treatment, others struggle with chronic pain for months or years. Managing pain and other symptoms often involve a combination of:

  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation designed to retain mobility and reduce pain
  • Occupational therapy to provide alternative ways to complete tasks with the affected limb
  • Over-the-counter and/or prescription pain relievers
  • Drugs to treat seizures or depression, which may also help resolve CRPS symptoms
  • Psychotherapy to learn techniques to manage the mental health impact of chronic pain

Ongoing research strives to find a cure for CRPS. If you experienced an injury at work and have developed the symptoms of this condition, seek medical help to determine the best course of treatment.