4 Myths About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Debunked

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4 Myths About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Debunked

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a rare and mysterious medical condition that usually affects the arms or legs. Often beginning after a traumatic injury, heart attack, stroke, or surgical procedure, CRPS produces out-of-proportion pain.

The reasons why someone develops complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) aren’t fully understood. It’s not a common condition — it affects an estimated 200,000 people in the United States. A chronic pain condition, CRPS can be hard to treat since there’s plenty of variation among patients. 

Symptoms range from burning or throbbing pain to temperature sensitivity, skin discoloration, and joint stiffness. The signs of CRPS can change over time, in intensity and nature. Once a symptom appears, it’s often permanent. There’s no known cure for CRPS. 

There’s evidence that early treatment helps to reduce the impact of CRPS. Check in with the CRPS specialists at Metro Anesthesia & Pain Management in West Des Moines and East Des Moines, Iowa, for a diagnosis. Together, we can develop a custom treatment plan to help you manage your condition. 

Because CRPS has its mysteries, myths about the condition persist. Let’s look at four of the most pervasive myths to help you separate fact from fiction. 

Myth: CRPS flare-ups mean your condition is getting worse

CRPS symptoms often change in intensity. A pronounced period of stronger symptoms is commonly referred to as a flare-up. A flare-up can last days, weeks, or longer. Pain, swelling, and temperature sensitivity are usually the first signs of CRPS, and these commonly feature in flare-ups. 

The intensity of a flare-up is largely independent of both CRPS and other flare-ups. It’s not a sign your CRPS is worsening or spreading. It’s not turning into a more serious condition. Flare-ups are simply part of living with CRPS, even though the pain may be significantly greater than your baseline levels. 

Myth: CRPS has an identifiable cause

Sometimes, an event triggers CRPS symptoms. Fractures or crushing injuries can precede CRPS when there’s distinct nerve damage. That’s type 2 CRPS. 

About 90% of CRPS patients, though, have type 1 CRPS. The condition may emerge after an injury but without direct damage to nerves in the limb where you feel CRPS symptoms. That’s called reflex sympathetic dystrophy. It may never be clear which event or injury triggers CRPS. 

Myth: CRPS resolves on its own

CRPS symptoms do vanish sometimes, usually when the condition is mild and the patient is in robust health. For those who delay treatment, smoke tobacco products, or have other underlying health conditions, CRPS is likely a permanent condition that can get worse and lead to increasing disability. 

Myth: CRPS is a mental or emotional disorder

Like fibromyalgia, CRPS is a condition where nerves report pain signals out of proportion with nerve stimulation. In the past, the absence of a physical injury led many to think these pain conditions were “all in the head.” 

The visible CRPS symptoms of changes to your skin’s color, texture, and temperature are just some of the measurables that indicate CRPS is a physical disorder. 

If your symptoms suggest CRPS, schedule an exam and assessment with Metro Anesthesia & Pain Management. Call the nearest office or use our online booking tool to set up your visit today.