Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

CRPS is a long-term (chronic) pain condition that can affect any area of the body, but often affects an arm or a leg.

Doctors are not sure what causes CRPS. In some cases, the sympathetic nervous system plays an important role in the pain. Another theory is that CRPS is caused by a triggering of the immune response, which leads to the inflammatory symptoms of redness, warmth, and swelling in the affected area.

CRPS has two forms:

    • Type 1 is a long-term (chronic) nerve disorder that occurs most often in the arms or legs after a minor injury.
    • Type 2 is caused by an injury to a nerve.

CRPS is thought to result from damage to the nervous system. This includes the nerves that control the blood vessels and sweat glands.

The damaged nerves are no longer able to properly control blood flow, feeling (sensation), and temperature to the affected area. This leads to problems in the:

    • Blood vessels
    • Bones
    • Muscles
    • Nerves
    • Skin

Sensory changes are also common in the affected area and may include:

    • Increased sensitivity to painful stimuli 
    • Feeling pain from stimuli that are usually not painful 

Other symptoms of CRPS in the affected area include:

    • Skin swelling
    • Decreased function in your affected limb
    • Changes in skin temperature, skin color, and texture

Possible causes of CRPS

    • Injury directly to a nerve
    • Injury or infection in an arm or leg

CRPS remains a difficult-to-treat condition. While there have been multiple therapies explored in the treatment of CRPS, NMDA antagonists such as ketamine continue to hold significant interest because of their potential ability to alter the central sensitization noted in chronic pain states. Off-label treatment ketamine infusion therapy has proven to provide excellent and even long-term symptom relief for CRPS.

Patients with CRPS get the best results from combining ketamine treatments with support for emotional and mental well-being. This allows one to better manage pain to a level that improves the quality of life with the help of a pain specialist and combining other treatment modalities.

Treatments are coordinated with the patient’s current referring healthcare provider.