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What is complex regional pain syndrome?

What is complex regional pain syndrome?


What is it complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)? It is a chronic pain condition that most. It is commonly affects a limb (arm, hand, leg or foot) typically after an injury. CRPS can develop after an injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack, but the pain is out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury.


The cause of complex regional pain syndrome isn’t clearly understood, but it’s generally thought to be the result of the body reacting abnormally to an injury. For example, injury is thought to cause damage or malfunction of the peripheral and central nervous systems.  The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord; the peripheral nervous system involves nerve signalling from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.

CRPS can begin at any age, including in children. Although, the average age for symptoms to start is thought to be around 50. Women make up around 3 out of 4 cases of CRPS.

Symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

  • The pain associated with CRPS is usually initiated by an injury. However, it is longer lasting and more severe that would normally be expected. The type of pain can range from throbbing, sharp, burning and stabbing. There may also be a sensation of tingling or numbness.
  • The skin of the affected body part can become so sensitive that just a slight touch, bump or even a change in temperature can provoke intense pain.
  • Changes in skin temperature.
  • Change in skin colour, which can range from white and mottled to red or blue.
  • Hair and nail changes- your nails and hair of the affected limb may begin to grown unusually quick or slow, and your nails may also become brittle and grooved.
  • Reduced range of movement and difficulty moving the affected body part.
  • Difficulty sleeping at night.
  • Joint stiffness and swelling.
  • Muscle spasm, weakness or loss (atrophy).

Living with chronic pain such as CRPS can become an emotional strain and can lead to psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. If you feel your mood and psychological well-being is being affected by your symptoms see you GP for advice and support.

Receiving appropriate treatment and care for CRPS is very important to aid in a timely recovery. Trained healthcare providers can help treat however, there are some simple tips you can do to optimise your mental and physical health while dealing with CRPS.


  • Maintain normal daily activities as much as you can.
  • Learn to pace yourself and be sure to get adequate rest.
  • Remain connected and open with family and friends.
  • Continue to pursue hobbies and activities that you enjoy and are able to do.

If you are experiencing symptoms related to CRPS our physiotherapists can assess and help treat your pain, and guide you through a tailored treatment plan.  Contact us here if you would like to make an appointment.

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