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About CRPS
Fact & Fiction

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is poorly understood by patients, their families, and healthcare professionals. In some cases the condition is mild, in some it is moderate, and in others it is severe. We have compiled a list of some of the common misconceptions about this syndrome followed by the facts.

CRPS Fact Sheet

  • CRPS is a chronic pain syndrome characterized by severe and relentless pain. Our knowledge of the incidence and prevalence of CRPS is incomplete. Existing science is represented in the following references: Sandroni P. Pain. 2003;103(1-2):199-207 and De Mos M. Pain.2007;129:12-20. We hope that RSDSA’s efforts to increase awareness and reporting of CRPS will increase the accuracy of the prevalence and incidence numbers.

  • CRPS is a malfunction of part of the nervous system. Nerves misfire, sending constant pain signals to the brain. It develops in response to an event the body regards as traumatic, such as an accident or a medical procedure. This syndrome may follow 5% of all nerve injuries.1,2
  • Minor injuries, such as a sprain or a fall are frequent causes of CRPS. One characteristic of CRPS is that the pain is more severe than expected for the type of injury that occurred.
  • Early and accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment are key to recovery, yet many health care professionals and consumers are unaware of its signs and symptoms. Typically, people with CRPS report seeing an average of five physicians before being accurately diagnosed.
  • Symptoms include persistent moderate-to-severe pain, swelling, abnormal skin color changes, skin temperature, sweating, limited range of movement, movement disorders.
  • CRPS is two to three times more frequent in females than males.
  • The mean age at diagnosis is 42 years. However, we are seeing more injuries among young girls, and children as young as 3 years old can get CRPS.

  • This is not a psychological syndrome, but people may develop psychological problems when physicians, family, friends, and co-workers do not believe their complaints of pain.

  • Treatments include medication, physical therapy, psychological support, sympathetic nerve blocks, and/or spinal cord stimulation.

1. Loeser JD. Ed. Bonica's the management of pain. 3rd Ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins; 2001:388-411.

2. Plewes LW. Sudek's Atrophy in the Hands. J Bone Joint Surg. 1956;38:195-203.

Updated October 29, 2012

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