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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) this is a potentially intensely painful injury featuring burning pain, swelling and hypersensitivity to touch.

CRPS is divided into two types. In type I cases, the symptoms develop despite the absence of an obvious nerve injury. In fact, what often appears to be a superficial soft tissue injury occasionally triggers intensely painful symptoms that can be totally disabling. The problem is thought to originate in the sympathetic nervous system, which is the part of our nervous system that unconsciously controls bodily functions like perspiration, adrenalin function and pupil size, to name just a few. Severe type I CRPS is like a brightly lit room without a light switch; the mechanism to turn the pain off is missing.

CRPS type II is also known as causalgia. It is similar to type I except that the condition arises out of a known nerve injury.

For persons with severe CRPS the prognosis is often poor. It is important that they be put under the care of someone with expertise in treating the condition. Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, medications and psychological treatment may all play a role in helping overcome this condition.