Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome

Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome

What is Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome?

Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as complex regional pain syndrome, is severe, continuous, and debilitating chronic pain. It’s often limited to one limb, but can affect multiple limbs in some cases.

It’s a broad term that encompasses a wide range of causes and experiences. Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome will most often occur after some kind of injury or trauma, ranging from a car accident to a stroke.


What are the symptoms of Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome?

The key symptom of CRPS is chronic pain. People suffering from the condition will often experience particular flare-ups, lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, where the pain gets worse. These can also be triggered by stress.

Otherwise, there are other pain symptoms outside of chronic pain that may present themselves. These include:

  • A burning sensation
  • A stabbing sensation
  • A stinging sensation
  • A mix of all three of the above
  • Sensitive skin in the affected area.
  • Hyperalgesia, or feeling pain from pressure or temperature that would not normally be painful
  • Allodynia, or experiencing pain from a very light touch of the affected skin
  • Ghost sensations in the affected limb

People with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome may also experience symptoms unrelated to pain, such as:

  • Alternating changes to the skin in the affected limb, such as becoming hot, red, and dry at times, whereas other times it may be cold, blue and sweaty
  • Hair and nail changes
  • Oedema, or joint stiffness and swelling in the affected limb
  • Tremors and muscle spasms
  • Difficulty moving the affected body part
  • Insomnia
  • Small patches of fragile bones, also called osteoporosis, in the affected limb
  • Skin infections and ulcers
  • Muscle atrophy, where the muscles begin to waste away
  • Muscle contractures, where the muscles shorten and lose their normal range of movement

Living with CRPS can also have a knock-on negative effect on mental health. As with any chronic pain condition, managing the symptoms can cause stress and result in anxiety or depression on behalf of the patients. These mental health conditions may also therefore present their own symptoms and challenges.


What causes Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome?

Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome usually occurs within one month of trauma or injury. They can be minor or serious, including:

  • Bone fractures
  • Sprains and strains
  • Burns
  • Cuts

The pain and other symptoms will usually affect the limb where the injury took place, but can spread to affect other areas of the body as well. It has also been known to occur when a limb has been immobilised for a long period of time, such as in plaster after a broken bone.

It’s thought that CRPS is an abnormal response to trauma that causes several of the body’s systems to malfunction. It’s also thought that a person’s genes may make them more predisposed to developing CRPS, but it’s unlikely to what extent this is true.


What treatment options are available for Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome?

As there’s no known cure for Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, treatment focuses on managing symptoms and seeking a reduction in chronic pain. To that end, doctors usually recommend a combination of physical treatments, medicine, and psychological support to help manage the symptoms.

The NHS estimates that around 85% of people with CRPS slowly experience a reduction in their pain and some of their symptoms in the first two years from beginning treatment. However, there is no way to predict who will experience these results.

Medications used to manage pain symptoms and treat Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Opioids

How can medical cannabis help with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome?

A study from the United States in 2019 showed that patients suffering from chronic pain experienced a significant reduction in pain symptoms when treated with medical cannabis. For those living with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, medical cannabis could be an alternative form of treatment that offers much-needed relief.

Opioids are often a common choice for helping with chronic pain. Medical cannabis is already being put forward by experts as an alternative medication to opioids, reducing the risk of developing a dependency and other unwanted side-effects. What’s more, this study from 2012 states that cannabis can help lead to a greater cumulative relief of pain. That means fewer opiates are used and reduces the impact of the associated side-effects.

Our expert specialist doctors at The Medical Cannabis Clinics want to raise awareness about how medical cannabis can help those living with chronic pain. Our online video link consultations provide a space to explore treatment options and receive private care as one of our patients.

Your prescription can be tailored to suit your individual circumstances and needs, with ongoing support and adjustments made as necessary. Appointments start from only £70. Book a private consultation today and one of our expert specialist doctors will be able to guide you through your treatment options.

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