Myths and Facts About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

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Myths and Facts About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome isn’t greatly understood, but thanks to ongoing research, we know more than we once did. Learn here about the myths and facts surrounding the painful condition.

As far as chronic pain conditions go, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is among the least understood. That’s one of the main reasons why there are so many myths that exist about the condition, which many people mistake as fact. If you receive a complex regional pain syndrome diagnosis or have a loved one who has, separating the myths from the facts is an imperative part of managing the condition. 

Here at Metro Anesthesia & Pain Management in Des Moines, Iowa, our board-certified pain management specialists and anesthesiologists can teach you about complex regional pain syndrome and the evidence-based treatments for it. They can answer all your questions about your diagnosis and make sure you’re aware of all of your options without wasting your time on misinformation and unproven methods. 

If you’re here to learn about the myths and facts of CRPS, we have you covered:

Facts you should know

CRPS is a chronic pain condition that usually sets in not long after a major injury or surgery, usually between four and six weeks. The pain primarily affects just one of your limbs: an arm, or a leg. The symptoms can be debilitating, and some of them are surprising: Most people wouldn’t expect a chronic pain condition to cause skin texture changes or rapid hair and nail growth on the affected limb. 

Other symptoms include:

  • Extremely low pain threshold
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Spreading pain through the affected limb (and sometimes to the other limb too)
  • Skin color and temperature changes
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Burning or squeezing pain
  • Swelling

These symptoms are the result of lingering inflammation in the limb, particularly around the nerves. They may also come from changes in pain communications between your brain and spinal cord, which spontaneously arise after surgery- or injury-related tissue damage. 

CRPS does not have a cure, but there are ways of treating the condition to restore function to your limb and manage pain. Ketamine therapy, spinal cord stimulation, and stem cell therapy are all options supported by research-based evidence. You get the best possible results from your treatment attempts by starting treatment as soon as possible after symptoms begin. 

Myths to know about

Now for the myths. Plenty of misinformation is out there about complex regional pain syndrome, and subscribing to it can give you a false sense of hope about the condition resolving itself or even lead you to ineffective treatments that could potentially harm you more than they help. 

One such myth is that CRPS will eventually resolve itself. As we covered earlier, CRPS has no cure. It’s important to note that the condition won’t go away on its own either, so managing it is important. You shouldn’t attempt to wait around for it to go away, even if you aren’t sure what to make of the symptoms at first. 

Another common myth about CRPS is that it’s a condition of the mind. Because the condition has long been misunderstood, physicians once thought that the pain originated in the mind. Now that we have a better understanding of the nervous system and how pain signals work, it’s clear that CRPS has physiological origins. 

You might also have heard (or assumed) that CRPS only occurs after extremely traumatic injuries and major surgeries. Yet, the condition can appear after mild and moderate injuries, too. If you have symptoms of the condition despite assuming your injury was too small to cause such a long-term complication, it’s likely you’ve been misdiagnosed. 

Visit us for more information

If you’d like to learn more about complex regional pain syndrome and the treatments available to manage symptoms, schedule an appointment over the phone or online at Metro Anesthesia & Pain Management today.