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Complex regional pain syndrome, called CRPS for short, is a chronic pain condition characterized by debilitating, ongoing pain that often occurs in an arm or a leg. In rare cases, it can be present in other areas of the body.
In a person with CRPS, the skin on the affected area becomes extremely sensitive to touch and may change color and/or temperature. Symptoms also include swelling and stiffness, and it can become very difficult to move the limb.
Complex regional pain syndrome is caused by over-activation of the sensory nervous system. This abnormal firing of the nerves occurs not only in the affected limb, but also along the nerve pathways up the spine and into the brain. Sometimes CRPS occurs after an injury or surgery, but other times it is not clear what triggers this response.
CRPS tends to occur more often in girls than in boys and in Caucasian children. Genetic predisposition may be one of many factors that contribute to the development of CRPS.
People with CRPS experience:
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is typically diagnosed by gathering a patient’s medical history and with a physical examination. The diagnosis sometimes can be confirmed with a special three-phase bone scan. This scan involves use of a contrast dye that will help a clinician to know if there are any changes in the bone that may be an indication of CRPS.
Complex regional pain syndrome is a rare condition that is difficult to diagnose. At Children’s Colorado’s Chronic Pain Clinic, we specialize in chronic pain conditions of all types, including CRPS, and our team has both experience and expertise at diagnosing and successfully treating this condition.
Your child will meet with a variety of specialists during the first evaluation at the Chronic Pain Clinic, including a doctor, nurse practitioner, psychologist, physical therapist and social worker. At the end of the visit, you will receive a summary of the multidisciplinary treatment plan and recommendations.
At the Chronic Pain Clinic, we work together as a team to diagnose and treat all chronic pain conditions, including CRPS. We integrate information gathered from all team members and combine the expertise of multiple disciplines to arrive at a diagnosis.
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is treated with a multidisciplinary approach that includes patient and family education, physical therapy and psychotherapy. Treatment may also include medications and nerve blocks or injections.
Our care team may also recommend alternative treatments, including acupuncture, massage, or biofeedback (a mind-body technique that helps teach patients how to influence their autonomic nervous systems).
The Chronic Pain Clinic at Children’s Colorado is one of few in the country that specialize in treating pediatric chronic pain conditions like CRPS. Our team uses evidence-based treatments, which have been proven to be the most effective way to manage and treat CRPS.