Complex regional pain syndrome (otherwise known as CRPS) relates to chronic pain in a limb or area of the body. This pain is usually of a sharp, shooting, burning or pins and needles type and is associated with colour changes and swelling in the limb. The condition is often debilitating and frustrating for those who suffer from it.
As yet, the causes of CRPS are not entirely understood since it has been difficult to identify common links between cases.
CRPS can occur after trauma (ranging form minor sprain to major surgery) or rarely, without any cause. It affects adults and children of all ages, but it tends to affect women more than men.
Treatment of CRPS usually begins with the patient being educated about their condition and how best to manage it in order to keep up with their regular activities. Physiotherapy and pain-relief medication are often prescribed to help to alleviate the symptoms. Physical exercises relating to the affected area help to reduce the risk of long-term muscle problems. Specialist pain medications and interventions to facilitate exercises and pain relief are also usually required.
Like most pain conditions, CRPS tends to be of a mild nature in the majority of cases and settles down with simple painkillers, rest and exercises. If it persists beyond 6 weeks it is recommended to seek medical advice. Early specialist help is particularly important in CRPS to prevent long-term discomfort and disability.