Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Regional Pain Syndrome
What is complex regional pain syndrome?
Complex regional pain syndrome is
pain that may occur after an injury to an arm or a leg. In rare cases, the
syndrome develops after surgery, a heart attack, a stroke or some other medical
problem. The pain is often described as a burning feeling and is much worse than
expected for the injury. Your doctor may also call this condition reflex
sympathetic dystrophy or causalgia. The cause of the syndrome is not known.
How can my doctor tell if I have
complex regional pain syndrome?
Your doctor will make the
diagnosis based on your pain symptoms and your physical exam. People with this
syndrome still have severe pain long after the time when their injury should
have healed. The injured area is often swollen. The color, or the temperature
and moistness of the skin may change. The skin may be very sensitive to a light
touch or to changes in temperature.
Usually, no tests are needed to
diagnose this condition. Your doctor may order x-rays or blood tests to see if
another illness is causing your pain.
Does medicine help?
Yes, medicine can help. But no
single drug or combination of drugs gives long-lasting relief to patients with
this problem. Several medicines are used to treat the pain of complex regional
pain syndrome. Medicines that block certain nerves may be prescribed. Sometimes
steroids help. Some medicines used for depression and seizures also help chronic
pain. Narcotics and other pain medicines may not control the pain of complex
regional pain syndrome. Are there
any other treatments? Yes. Your
doctor may suggest a sympathetic block. This is an injection of an anesthetic
(pain reliever) into certain nerves to block the pain signals. If the injection
works, it may be repeated. Physical therapy and psychological counseling are
also helpful. However, a treatment that works for one person may not work for
another. An individual treatment plan must be made for each person.
Will the symptoms ever go away?
With early treatment, you may keep
complex regional pain syndrome from getting worse. Sometimes the condition
improves. If treatment is started early enough, the symptoms may go away
completely. However, people with more severe symptoms that have lasted for a
long time often don't respond to treatment. These people may benefit from a pain
management program that is aimed specifically at dealing with chronic pain.
Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association of America: www.rsds.org