Complex regional pain syndrome

What is it?

  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a poorly understood condition in which a person experiences persistent severe and debilitating pain.
  • Although most cases of CRPS are triggered by an injury, the resulting pain is much more severe and long-lasting than normal.
  • The pain is usually confined to one limb, but it can sometimes spread to other parts of the body.
  • The skin of the affected body part can become so sensitive that just a slight touch, bump or even a change in temperature can provoke intense pain.

    What are the symptoms?

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 — at times your skin may be sweaty; at other times it may be cold * Changes in skin color, which can range 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, weakness and loss (atrophy) * Decreased ability to move the affected body part Symptoms may change over time and vary from person to person. Most commonly, pain, swelling, redness, noticeable changes in temperature and hypersensitivity (particularly to cold and touch) occur first. Over time, the affected limb can become cold and pale and undergo skin and nail changes as well as muscle spasms and tightening. Once these changes occur, the condition is often irreversible. Complex regional pain syndrome occasionally may spread from its source to elsewhere in your body, such as the opposite limb. The pain may be worsened by emotional stress. In some people, signs and symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome go away on their own. In others, signs and symptoms may persist for months to years.

Home Remedy


There are things you can do yourself to help control your condition. This may include: * education – to help you understand your condition * support to stay active and use the affected body part * learning techniques to help you manage increases in pain * learning relaxation methods to help improve your quality of life * advice regarding activity management – to help avoid peaks and dips in activity despite pain * continuing rehabilitation treatments at home, such as desensitisation techniques (see below) * accessing any support groups in your local area

Things to watch out for

GP should be contacted if the persistent pain is preventing you from carrying out everyday activities.

Think you might have Complex regional pain syndrome?

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Think you have Complex regional pain syndrome?