Regenerative Spine and Pain Institute

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

hands of a woman with CRPS

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition. It causes intense pain, usually in the arms, hands, legs, or feet. It may happen after an injury, either to a nerve or to tissue in the affected area. Rest and time may only make it worse.

CRPS is uncommon, and its cause isn't clearly understood. Complex regional pain syndrome treatment is most effective when started early. In such cases, improvement and even remission are possible. Signs and symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome include:

  • Continuous burning or throbbing pain, usually in your arm, leg, hand or foot
  • Sensitivity to touch or cold
  • Swelling of the painful area
  • Changes in skin temperature, alternating between sweaty and cold
  • Changes in skin color, ranging from white and mottled to red or blue
  • Changes in skin texture, which may become tender, thin or shiny in the affected area
  • Changes in hair and nail growth
  • Joint stiffness, swelling and damage
  • Muscle spasms, tremors, weakness and loss (atrophy)
  • Decreased ability to move the affected body part

In some people, signs and symptoms of CRPS go away on their own. In others, signs and symptoms may persist for months to years. Treatment is likely to be most effective when started early in the course of the illness.

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