What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

Complex regional pain syndrome, also sometimes referred to as CRPS or reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, is a form of chronic pain that usually develops in the leg. While not a lot of information regarding the cause or underlying issues surrounding complex regional pain syndrome is available, it generally develops after a stroke, heart attack, injury or surgery. When this happens, nerve impulses from the brain are sent to the site where the pain seems to originate, even if the site was not associated part of the area affected by injury or surgery. While some agree that it may be related to a dysfunction in the immune system, complex regional pain syndrome may also be related to your body’s natural immune response – Particularly if it’s related to a specific injury.



There are two distinct forms of complex regional pain syndrome, including:

  • Type 1: The far more common form of complex regional pain syndrome, this type develops after an injury or event that may not have directly damaged the nerves in the affected limb. Approximately 90% of those suffering from complex regional pain syndrome are diagnosed with Type 1.
  • Type 2: This form of complex regional pain syndrome is much less common and usually follows a nerve injury.

It is widely believed that complex regional pain syndrome stems from a disruption in the healing process due to a triggered response in the body’s pain receptors and nerve impulses, though the series of events that cause this condition have not yet been completely solved.


The most common symptoms associated with complex regional pain syndrome include:

  • Progressive, intense pain that worsens over time
  • Burning pain
  • Swelling and stiffness in nearby joints
  • Limited mobility in the affected limb
  • Tangible skin changes, including temperature (skin may feel warmer or cooler), color (skin may become blotchy, pale, reddened or even purple) and texture (skin may become thinner and/or shiny)

Sometimes, those suffering from complex regional pain syndrome may also experience clammier skin than what is normal for them. Stress and anxiety can also worsen this condition.

The OrthoCARE Treatment Approach

While there is no cure for complex regional pain syndrome, OrthoCARE Institute offers a variety of treatments designed to relieve the pain and discomfort associated with this condition. We will typically first recommend a combination of conservative treatments, such as:

  • Focused exercises and physical therapy
  • Hot and cold therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medications
  • Topical medications, including creams or patches

In severe cases or in the event that conservative treatment is unsuccessful, OrthoCARE Institute may recommend certain surgical options commonly used to provide relief for complex regional pain syndrome. Our experienced orthopedic surgeons are committed to compassionate, innovative procedures, including:

  • Spinal cord stimulation: Using electrical impulses to relieve severe pain to the back, arms and/or legs, a spinal cord stimulator is implanted and controlled remotely with a wireless device. Your surgeon will determine the most effective area to place the stimulator based on your unique condition.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This advanced technique relieves the pain associated with complex regional pain syndrome through low-voltage electrical impulses applied to nerve endings. The TENS machine is a simple battery-operated device about the size of a small radio.
  • Nerve block injections: With many different types of nerve blocks available through OrthoCARE Institute, these injections typically combine both an anti-inflammatory medication as well as a numbing agent to relieve pain.

Get in touch with OrthoCARE Institute today by calling us directly at 972-255-5588 or by filling out the form on our Contact Us page. We look forward to helping you find relief!

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