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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

The pain associated with CRPS is usually triggered within a month of an injury (which can include sprains or strains, bone fractures, burns or cuts), but is a lot more severe and long-lasting than would normally be expected. The pain may be a mix of burning, stabbing or stinging sensations, but there may also be a tingling sensation and numbness.

You may have periods of pain lasting a few days or weeks, called flare-ups, where the pain gets worse. Stress in particular can lead to flare-ups, which is why relaxation techniques and mindfulness training can be an important part of treating CRPS.

If you have CRPS, your skin in the affected area can become very sensitive. Even the slightest touch, bump or change in temperature can provoke intense pain.

Other symptoms

In addition to chronic pain, CRPS can also cause a range of other symptoms, including:

Strange sensations in the affected limb – it may feel as if the affected limb doesn’t belong to the rest of your body, or it may feel bigger or smaller than the opposite, unaffected limb

Alternating changes to your skin – sometimes your skin in the affected limb may be hot, red and dry, whereas other times it may be cold, blue and sweaty

Hair and nail changes – your hair and nails in the affected limb may grow unusually slowly or quickly and your nails may become brittle or grooved

Joint stiffness and swelling in the affected limb (oedema)

Tremors and muscle spasms (dystonia)

Difficulty moving the affected body part

Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)

Small patches of fragile bones (osteoporosis) in the affected limb – although there’s no evidence this could lead to fractures

In very rare cases, CRPS can also lead to further physical complications, such as skin infections and ulcers (open sores), muscle atrophy (where the muscles begin to waste away) and muscle contractures (where the muscles shorten and lose their normal range of movement). Some of these problems can make it very difficult for people with CRPS to move around.

  NHS Choices

Treatment of complex regional pain may involve several disciplines including Consultant Rheumatologists, specialist physiotherapists and specialist psychologists and possibly referral to a chronic pain programme.

The TraumaCare team is experienced in arranging and coordinating the multidisciplinary team needed and if necessary arranging referral to pain management programmes.