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Will My Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Ever Go Away?

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a term for prolonged pain and inflammation following an injury, usually to an arm or leg. Pain and inflammation are the body’s natural response to a sudden injury. Under normal circumstances, the pain and inflammation subsides as the body heals. 

But in people with CRPS, the pain and inflammation lasts much longer than the initial injury and is much worse than what is typical for such an injury. If you’ve been diagnosed with CRPS, you may wonder if your pain and discomfort will ever subside. Visiting a pain management specialist like Dr. Michael Pylman and our team at Lynx Healthcare is the first step to getting your pain under control. 

Understanding complex regional pain syndrome

While some cases are mild, many cases of CRPS cause significant pain and discomfort. People describe the pain as a burning sensation in the affected area. 

Other symptoms include:

Damage to peripheral nerve fibers that carry sensation messages to the brain can trigger CRPS. A fracture, burn, cut, or even surgery can cause CRPS. 

In some people there is identifiable nerve damage, which is classified as CRPS II. In others there is less clear evidence of damage to a nerve, which doctors label as CRPS I. People with CRPS II tend to have more extensive injuries. 

CRPS is unpredictable, and there is no way to avoid it since it arises from an injury. At the current time, there is no way to know who will get CRPS, however, smoking is a risk factor, and for reasons that remain unclear, CRPS is more common in women.

How long will my pain last?

Unfortunately, there’s no way for doctors to predict how long your CRPS symptoms will last. CRPS often improves over time and in most cases eventually goes away. In some people CRPS is prolonged and can have a significant impact on your daily life.

CRPS tends to go through three stages. In the early stage the leg or arm may feel painful and hot to the touch. Small movements may trigger severe pain. Then over the course of weeks or months, the pain may worsen and the skin may change color, appearing purple. The muscles of the affected area may feel stiff. 

At the third stage, the limb may become difficult to move and the pain may intensify. It’s not uncommon for the limb to become permanently flexed. Due to lack of movement, the muscles in the affected area may shrink (atrophy). 

Managing pain in complex regional pain syndrome

Early intervention is key in effectively treating CRPS. Before treatment begins, Dr. Pylman performs a comprehensive evaluation that includes a thorough medical history, physical exam, and in-depth discussion of your symptoms. As part of his diagnostic workup, Dr. Pylman may order imaging studies and tests to evaluate nerve function. 

Once you’re diagnosed, Dr. Pylman recommends a course of treatment, which may include:

Early treatment increases the chances of getting relief. It’s important to seek care from a specialist with expertise in treating CRPS like the team here at Lynx Healthcare. 

CRPS is a chronic pain condition that requires expert diagnosis and care. To learn more, give us a call at our office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, or you can request an appointment online today. 

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