New guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

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The Royal College of Physicians recently published new guidelines on how patients in Wales with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) should be diagnosed, receive treatment and be helped to manage their condition by healthcare professionals.

CRPS is a condition which affects up to five per cent of all adults receiving treatment at pain clinics. Sufferers experience persistent and debilitating pain in either an arm or a leg and often have other symptoms such as swelling and sensitivity to touch.

Findings from the Royal College of Physicians

The findings of the Royal College, which were produced in collaboration with a number of other health partners, underline the difficulties patients face in gaining an initial diagnosis of CRPS and then receiving treatment in a timely fashion. Because the condition can often be confused with other causes of pain, patients can have to attend multiple examinations before CRPS is finally confirmed.

The cause of the continued pain and the other symptoms remains unknown but the condition often begins after an injury to the affected limb. The guidelines suggest that more research is required into the causes of CRPS.

The new ‘Four Pillars of Care’

The new guidelines advocate a multidisciplinary approach to managing CRPS with ‘four pillars of care’ on which to base treatment and intervention. These are the need for education around the condition, combined with effective pain relief, physical rehabilitation and psychological intervention.

CRPS in Wales

When it comes to CRPS, there have been a number of case studies from Wales which have highlighted people’s experiences of suffering from the condition as awareness grows. Last year the local press reported the story of a 15-year-old girl from Rumney in Cardiff whose condition had become so bad she had been hospitalised for four months. And a couple of years ago there was the case of a promising lawyer who had been left suicidal and bedridden so bad was her CRPS.

Each case which is reported continues to highlight a poor understanding of the condition amongst medical professionals and a lack of access to timely treatment.

The primary aims of the new guidelines from the Royal College of Physicians are to relieve pain, restore function and to enable patients to manage their condition and improve their wellbeing.

Providing patients with information on CRPS is key, as is finding the right pain relief medication. Just as important is a programme of tailored physical exercises and specialist intervention when required.

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