Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
What Is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a condition of intense burning pain, stiffness, swelling, and discoloration that most often affects the hand.
Arms, legs, and feet can also be affected by CRPS.
This condition was previously known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, Sudeck’s atrophy, shoulder-hand syndrome, or causalgia.
What Causes Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?
Although the two types of CRPS can be tied to injury or illness, the exact cause of CRPS is unknown.
One theory is that a “short circuit” in the nervous system is responsible. This “short circuit” causes overactivity of the sympathetic (unconscious) nervous system which affects blood flow and sweat glands in the affected area.
Symptoms most commonly occur after injury or surgery.
Other causes include pressure on a nerve, infection, cancer, neck problems, stroke, or heart attack.
What Are The Symptoms of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?
Symptoms most commonly occur after injury or surgery. Other causes include pressure on a nerve, infection, cancer, neck problems, stroke, or heart attack.
What Are The Treatment Options For Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?
Early diagnosis and treatment are important in order to prevent CRPS from developing into the later stages.
It is also important that these patients not be told that the pain is “in their heads.” CRPS is a physiological condition. Even though it is not fully understood, CRPS is treatable.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), oral corticosteroids, anti-depressants, blood pressure medications, anti-convulsants, and opioid analgesics are medications recommended to relieve symptoms.
Injecting an anesthetic (numbing medicine) near the affected sympathetic nerves can reduce symptoms. This is usually recommended early in the course of CRPS in order to avoid progression to the later stages.
Active exercise that emphasizes normal use of the affected limb is essential to permanent relief of this condition. Physical and/or occupational therapy are important in helping patients regain normal use patterns. Medications and other treatment options can reduce pain, allowing the patient to engage in active exercise.
If nonsurgical treatment fails, there are surgical procedures that may help reduce symptoms.
Spinal cord stimulator
Tiny electrodes are implanted along your spine and deliver mild electric impulses to the affected nerves.
Pain pump implantation
A small device that delivers pain medication to the spinal cord is implanted near the abdomen.
Our team is here for you
When conservative care and treatment is appropriate, we offer the best, least invasive, least aggressive treatment options to relieve your pain and discomfort. When an injury is more serious and conservative care is not an option, our orthopedic surgeons provide the latest in innovative surgical interventions available with the goal of getting you back to the life you love. Wisconsin Bone & Joint physicians offer orthopedic services at three convenient locations in Mayfair, Glendale and Cedarburg.