Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), formerly Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or Causalgia, is a chronic progressive disease characterized by severe pain, swelling, and changes in the skin.

It often affects an arm, leg and may spread to another part of the body and is associated with dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system resulting in multiple functional loss, impairment or disability.

Symptoms & Causes

The exact mechanism of how RSD develops is poorly understood. The theories include irritation and abnormal excitation of nervous tissue, leading to abnormal impulses along nerves that affect blood vessels and skin. The involuntary nervous system, peripheral nerves, and brain seem to be involved. A variety of events can trigger the RSD, including:

  • Injury
  • Surgery
  • Heart disease
  • Degenerative arthritis of the neck
  • Stroke or other brain diseases
  • Nerve irritation by entrapment (such as carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Shingles
  • Shoulder problems
  • Breast cancer
  • Drugs for tuberculosis and barbiturates.

The symptoms of CRPS usually manifest near the site of an injury, which is usually minor. The most common symptoms overall are burning and electrical sensations, described to be like “shooting pain”. The patient may also experience muscle spasms, local swelling, abnormally increased sweating, changes in skin temperature (usually hot but sometimes cold) and color (bright red or a reddish violet), softening and thinning of bones, joint tenderness or stiffness, and/or restricted or painful movement.


At the Blatman Health and Wellness Center, our goal is not only to treat and relieve your Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy symptoms. Let our chronic pain specialists help to unlock the source of your pain and work towards eliminating the cause.



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