What is RSD/CRPS:
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) also known as, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), is a chronic neurological syndrome characterized by:
- severe burning pain
- pathological changes in bone and skin
- excessive sweating
- tissue swelling
- extreme sensitivity to touch
RSD / 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.
RSD / CRPS Fact :
- RSD/CRPS, is a chronic pain syndrome characterized by severe and relentless pain that affects between 200,000 and 1.2 million Americans.
- RSD/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 RSD/CRPS. One characteristic 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 RSD/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.
- RSD/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 RSD/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.
This information was obtained from the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association Website. For additional information please visit the www.rsds.org
Telltale Signs and Symptoms of RSD/CRPS:
RSD/CRPS is a diagnostic consideration for people who have moderate to severe pain that is disproportionate to any inciting event (sprain, fracture, surgery, etc.) and has some of the following characteristics:
- Pain which is described as deep, aching, cold, burning, and/or increased skin sesnitivity
- The presence of an initiating noxious event (sprain, fracture, etc.)
- Continuing paint (moderate to severe) associated with allodynia (pain resulting from a stimulus that normally does not cause pain, such as the touch of clothing or water from a shower), or hyperalgesia (heightened sensitivity to painful stimulation)
- Abnormal swelling in the affected part
- Abnormal hair or nail growth
- Abnormal skin color changes
- Abnormal skin temperature (greater than 1C asymmetry)
- Abnormal sweating
- Limited range of movement, weakness, or other motor disorders (paralysis, dystonia, etc.)
- RSD/CRPS is excluded by the existence of conditions that would otherwise account for the degree of pain and dysfuntion.
Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment offer the highest probability of remission of RSD/CRPS. A physician must make a clinical diagnosis of RSD/CRPS using a patient history, a thorough examination, and the results of numerous test. There is no single test for RSD/CRPS.
RSD/CRPS is a Physical Disease:
Many of the symptoms of RSD/CRPS are not visible to others, and often people with the syndrome don’t look sick. It has not been unusual for medical professionals to suggest that people with RSD/CRPS exaggerate their pain for psychological reasons. However, research has proven that RSD/CRPS is a very real condition.
Who can get RSD/CRPS?
Anyone can get RSD/CRPS at any age, but studies show that it is more common in people between the ages of 25 and 55, and is more frequently seen in women than in men. It used to be considered rare in children, but there has been a recent increase in the number of cases diagnosed among adolescents and young adults.
If you think you have RSD/CRPS
If you have an injury that isn’t healing as it should, or if the pain or swelling is more severe thank you expect for such an injury:
- Ask your physician if this could be RSD/CRPS
- Make sure that you are getting treatment for the pain
- Try to keep the affected area moving
- Get another medical opinion if you feel that your physician isn’t taking your complaints seriously
Is there a cure?
No, but there is hope! Advances in research on pain and RSD/CRPS have helped find some new and effective treatments. More funds and research are needed to understand the causes of RSD/CRPS, find effective treatments for those living with RSD/CRPS, and prevent the development of RSD/CRPS after injury and tissue damage.
This information was obtained from the RSDSA publication, “Recognizing, Understanding, and Treating CRPS.” For additional information visit
This information was obtained from the latest update of MediFocus Guidebook – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (NR015) This book is an excellent source of information for people with RSD. You can purchase the online version, or paperpack ( which comes with the online book). Go go www.medifocus.com to order your copy.