The struggle of managing pain can be difficult, especially when you are dealing with a condition that has no cure. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is the term given to chronic pain in one part of your body. This blog post will explore what causes CRPS and how it affects people who have this condition. We'll also take a look at some tips for coping with CRPS so you can live life as fully as possible.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: What Causes It?
CRPS starts when you injure yourself. This could be a minor injury, such as stubbing your toe or breaking an arm during a fall from your bike. In some cases it can happen after something major like surgery or even childbirth.
The pain of CRPS happens because the nervous system is damaged in some way and sends incorrect signals to areas around the injured area. These signals can cause pain, swelling, warmth and changes in skin color.
The problem is that even if the injury heals there is still a risk of CRPS developing or returning because it's not just about an initial injury - your immune system also plays a role too. In some cases this means you could develop CRPS from something as common as a sprained ankle.
Finding out what causes CRPS is the first step in finding treatments to improve your condition and to help you cope with it on an ongoing basis. This can help you live life more comfortably, even when you do have some tough days ahead of you.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: What Are The Symptoms?
The symptoms of CRPS can vary depending on the type you have. Some common pain areas include your arms, legs, hands or feet but it's also possible to feel pain in more unusual places like your face and head. The main symptom is continuous pain that gets worse over time rather than better. Other signs may include:
- Changes in skin color (turning red, purple or white)
- Changes in skin temperature (feeling hot or cold when it's not actually the case - like wearing a warm coat on a summer day to keep yourself cool)
- Changes in skin texture (the area will be tender and sometimes swell up which can make everyday tasks difficult)
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: Coping With CRPS
If you've been diagnosed with CRPS, it can be difficult to know where to begin when coping with the pain. This is because there is no single type of treatment that works for everyone - each person will have different symptoms that affect them in different ways. The best way to cope then is by testing different types of treatment until you find what works best for your symptoms. A CRPS specialist with experience treating patients with this Neurological disorder, such as Dr. Katinka van der Merwe, will be essential in helping you find recovery, as well as ways to cope.
A few ways to cope with CRPS include:
- Talking therapies (helping you understand how the pain affects you and learning coping techniques).
- Hypnosis (hypnotherapy is often used in conjunction with other treatments like physiotherapy, massage therapy or counselling)
- Pain management strategies (understanding pain management helps you work out what works best for your symptoms)
Coping With The Other Side Of CRPS
The impact of living with complex regional pain syndrome doesn't stop at the physical side. Blocking out the emotional effects can be difficult too which is why it's important to find ways to cope with the other side of CRPS.
Some ways you can manage the emotional impact include:
- Finding a supportive network (friends and family who understand your condition)
- Talking therapies like counselling or mindfulness techniques to help improve coping skills and mental wellbeing
How Long Does Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Last?
Most CRPS cases last for between six months and three years. In some rare cases it can be considered permanent when the pain either never goes away or comes back.
Who Is Most At Risk for CRPS?
The main risk factor for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is injury and in particular, a previous injury. Other factors that can increase your chances include:
- Having another serious medical condition like diabetes or cancer
- Being female - women are more likely than men to get CRPS
- Not getting treatment quickly enough after an initial injury - this means you could develop CRPS from a minor injury that could have been treated quickly and easily if you'd gone to your doctor or had it looked at.
What Should I Ask The CRPS Specialist?
When you first visit a CRPS specialist, they will ask about your symptoms and how they affect you. They may also run tests to rule out other conditions or see whether there is any visible damage on the body part affected by CRPS.
In addition to these questions, make sure you have a list of important points that matter most to you. You can then use it to ask questions during your appointment.
Some important things you may want to find out include:
- How long will I have complex regional pain syndrome for?
- What treatments do you recommend and why? How effective are they likely to be in my case? Have any of these been tested on people with CRPS?
- What other types of treatment could I try? What are the benefits and downsides to these treatments compared to what we've already discussed?
- Am I eligible for any clinical trials or research studies that receive funding from CRPS foundations? Would this be a good option in my case?
- Do you have information on local CRPS support groups? Could I benefit from meeting other people with CRPS?
- Can you provide me with information on how to access support services like pain management outreach programs or physiotherapy, occupational therapy and counselling?
- Would it be helpful for my family members to attend any sessions during the treatment process too?
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: What Is The Future Like?
Living life as a person with CRPS isn't easy - but it is possible. Finding the right treatment for your symptoms and finding ways to cope can make all the difference in helping you live life as happily as possible.
Going through CRPS will be tough, especially when there are no definitive answers on what causes CRPS or how to cure it. There is still hope however - and it's possible to find ways to cope with the pain while you wait for more research.
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