CRPS Nerve Pain

CRPS, also known as complex regional pain syndrome, is defined as chronic pain that tends to affect the arms or legs. CRPS tends to develop after an injury, surgery, stroke, or heart attack. The pain from CRPS will usually be out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury.

CRPS is rare and not completely understood. Treatment works best when started early. If caught early enough, it’s possible to improve or even go into remission.

What are the different phases of CRPS?

Stage 1: Acute

Stage 1 typically lasts about 3 months. The most common early symptoms of CRPS includes burning pain and increased sensitivity to touch. This pain last longer than the pain from normal injury would be. Swelling, joint stiffness, increased warmth and redness in the affected limb may occur next. Lastly, faster-than-normal nail and hair growth and excessive sweating commonly occur in Stage 1.

Stage 2: Dystrophic

Stage II lasts anywhere from 3 to 12 months. Swelling is more constant and skin wrinkles disappear. Skin temperature becomes cooler. Fingernails become brittle. Pain is more widespread, stiffness increases, and the affected area becomes more sensitive to touch.

Stage 3: Atrophic

Stage III occurs after 1 year. The skin of the affected area becomes pale, dry, tightly stretched, and shiny, The affected area has stiffness and mobility has a decreased chance of returning. Pain usually decreases in Stage 3 and the condition may spread to other areas of the body.

What are the symptoms of CRPS?

Signs and symptoms of CRPS include:

  • Continuous burning or throbbing pain, usually in the arm, leg, hand, or foot
  • Sensitivity to touch or cold
  • Swelling of the painful area
  • Changes in skin temperature — alternating between sweaty and cold
  • Changes in skin color, ranging from white and blotchy to red or blue
  • Changes in skin texture, which may become tender, thin, or shiny in the affected area
  • Changes in hair and nail growth
  • Joint stiffness, swelling, and damage
  • Muscle spasms, tremors, and weakness (atrophy)
  • Decreased ability to move the affected body part

What are the causes of CRPS?

While the cause of CRPS is not completely understood, it is believed to occur after a forceful trauma to an arm or leg like a fracture. CRPS can be caused by minor traumas such as a sprain.  Heart attacks, infections, surgery, and other types of major traumas may also lead to CRPS. Not everyone who has the injuries will develop CRPS.

CRPS occurs in two types with different causes, despite the similarities in symptoms:

  • Type 1- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD): RSD affects about 90% of people with CRPS. This type occurs after an illness or injury that didn’t directly damage the nerves in the affected limb.
  • Type 2- Causalgia: The symptoms of causalgia are often similar to those of type 1, however, type 2 CRPS occurs after a distinct nerve injury.

What are the complications of CRPS?

CRPS may progress to more-disabling signs and symptoms if not diagnosed and treated early. Some of these complications include:

  • Tissue wasting (atrophy): When the skin, bones, and muscles begin to deteriorate and weaken. This occurs when one avoids or has trouble moving an arm or a leg due to pain or stiffness.
  • Muscle tightening (contracture). Tightening of the muscles may lead to a condition in which the hand and fingers or the foot and toes contract into a fixed position.

How can CRPS be prevented?

Preventing CRPS is not guaranteed, but these steps can help reduce the risk of developing the disease:

  • Taking vitamin C after a wrist fracture: Studies have shown that people who take a high dose of vitamin C after a wrist fracture may have a lower risk of CRPS in comparison to those who didn’t take vitamin C.
  • Early mobilization after a stroke: According to some research, stroke victims who get out of bed and walk around (early mobilization) reduce their risk of developing CRPS.

What are the treatments for CRPS?

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists diagnose and treat patients with medical problems or injuries that limit their ability to take part in their daily lives. Patients will usually see a physical therapist after a referral by their primary physician. Physical therapists work with patients who have experienced an injury or disease that has affected their movement and range of motion.

At Nextgen Pain & Injury Clinic, our team of licensed physical therapists and rehabilitation experts will focus on your total health and wellness. Regardless of the cause or source of your pain, we will develop a treatment plan with your unique issues in mind.

Our treatment philosophy emphasizes evidence-based manual and therapeutic exercise techniques that are tailored toward efficiently returning patients, athletes, and employees to their pre-injury status. We treat orthopedic and sports injuries, and provide spinal rehabilitation, post-surgical rehabilitation, and industrial rehabilitation. Personalized physical therapy is used to treat a variety of conditions.

  • Chronic and acute medical problems
  • Knee pain
  • Back pain
  • Leg Pain
  • Ankle pain
  • Sports injuries
  • Musculoskeletal injuries
  • Chronic medical problems
  • Neurological conditions such as spinal cord injuries

Some of the other common therapies to reduce the symptoms of CRPS include:

  • Desensitization
  • Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs
  • Anti-Convulsants
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants
  • Spinal Cord Stimulation
  • Psychological Support


If you or a loved one suffers from CRPS, contact us. Let Nextgen Wellness give you the care you deserve.

Our mission is to help patients to return to work, improve their quality of life, reduce dependence on medication and healthcare providers, and avoid persistent injuries.

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