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Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)


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What is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)?

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a condition that can cause pain, swelling and discolouration in one of your limbs. There are two distinct types which may be referred to by different names – including reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), Sudek’s syndrome and causalgia. Read more >

What are the symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)?

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) usually affects one arm or one leg. The limb may change colour or temperature and you may experience a burning pain. Read more >

What causes complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)?

We don’t know the exact cause of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), but it usually follows an injury, or sometimes a stroke or an operation on the limb. Read more >

What is the outlook for complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)?

The outlook for people with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is variable and difficult to predict. It can settle within weeks or months with good rehabilitation therapy, but may last longer. Read more >

How is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) diagnosed?

Doctors mainly base a diagnosis of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) on your symptoms and an examination, although you may need some tests to rule out other conditions. Read more >

What treatments are there for complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)?

Treatment for complex regional pain syndrome will usually involve a combination of rehabilitation therapies and pain relief medications, and may also include psychological and other specialised therapies. 

Rehabilitation therapies:

  • physiotherapy
  • transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • occupational therapy
  • desensitisation (touching the affected area with different fabrics)
  • relaxation and stress management techniques
  • psychology
  • body perception awareness, which encourages more positive feelings about the affected limb
  • more specialised therapies such as graded motor imagery

Drug treatments:

  • painkillers e.g. paracetamol, codeine, tramadol
  • drugs that reduce nerve signals to the brain e.g. gabapentin, pregabalin
  • low-dose antidepressants which also reduce pain signals e.g. amitriptyline
  • bisphosphonates such as pamidronate.

Sympathetic blocks:

  • temporary blocks using injections of a local anaesthetic 
  • permanent blocks, either by injection or by surgery

Spinal cord stimulation - via a wire placed close to the nerves in the back


Read more >

Self-help and daily living for complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)

Try the following self-help tips to help ease the cymptoms of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS):
  • Exercise little and often – walking and swimming are particularly good.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Talk to your healthcare team and family and friends about any anxiety related to your condition.
  • Speak to your employer and/or occupational therapist about any particular problems your condition causes at work. 
Read more >

Research and new developments for complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)

Newer therapies such as mirror visual feedback therapy and graded motor imagery are now becoming more widely available, while clinical trials are looking into new medications. Read more >
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