What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
Complex: Many, many different problems have been identified in people with CRPS. These problems can be severe and usually involve many of our biological systems. This makes the situation complex.
Regional: The symptoms of CRPS are almost always confined to a particular region of the body. The arm of the leg is the most commonly involved region. Sometimes CRPS of one arm spreads to the leg on the same side of the body. Sometimes it spreads to the opposite arm, in which it usually ‘mirrors’ the other one.
Pain: CRPS is exquisitely, severely, painful. Like the other symptoms, the pain is confined to the affected limb or limbs. Often the skin is too tender to touch and the whole limb is too painful to move. In fact, sometimes the limb is too painful to even imagine moving.
Syndrome: A syndrome is a pattern of symptoms that often occur together. Normally, the reason that something is called a syndrome is that we do not know what causes it, we just know that this pattern of symptoms occurs together and usually at the same time.
Above is from: http://bodyinmind.org/what-is-complex-regional-pain-syndrome-in-plain-english/
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, is an odd one. Nobody really knows much about it. About what triggers it, about what the underlying pathological processes are, about how to treat it. The theory at its most simple is that there are changes in central nervous system, and that the brain becomes ‘confused’ in how it recognises pain. That as well as recognising something that should be painful such as – I don’t know, stubbing your toe or burning your finger, it decides that every contact is painful. Things that you’ve always taken for granted: putting on a jumper or pair of trousers, wearing socks or shoes, hugging a loved one, patting your dog, hurts. Even something as insignificant as a light, gentle breeze can cause excruciating pain for some.
It certainly seems to involve multiple systems. There is an exaggerated response to an initial injury - some theories suggest something wrong with the initial inflammatory response. The autonomic nervous system is involved - this is the one that controls things like blood flow, heart rate, blood pressure... the "fight or flight" response. It would seem that the immune system is involved, that movement control is involved and of course that pain systems are involved.
The triggers may be hugely different - anything from a sprained ankle to serious injury from something like a major car accident. It may be classified as type I, where no nerve damage is knownSigns and symptoms may vary from person to person, but the one constant feature is severe, unremitting pain. The pain characteristics may vary from person to person, or even within an individual. I have different types of pain that all exist together:
· Deep, tearing pain through my bones and muscles
· Burning pain on my skin
· Sensitivity to touch
· Pins and needles
I also have a number of other signs, fairly common to sufferers of CRPS:
· Severe oedema
· My skin has become very thin and shiny:
It often cracks and peels, and I’ve had a few occasions now where it has broken down entirely.
· In contrast, there are some areas on the sides of my feet where the skin is very thickened and painful.
· Changes in hair growth: some small areas have more hair, some are now entirely bald.
· Changes in nail growth: the nails on my left foot have all but cracked off now
· Dystonia of my feet and ankles