Complex Regional Pain Syndrome



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Please contact Dr Stephanie Barrett’s secretary Kate Picon on:

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managing pain - arthritisComplex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition which causes severe pain that doesn’t lessen or go away with ease.

It usually affects a single arm or leg and it is often a result of an injury in the same area. The body’s reaction to the injury is often much more painful than the injury itself ever was and it is a condition which is very personal to the patient.  It can also vary in terms of pain level throughout the day.

The painful area is often swollen which can make it stiff too and it may be difficult to control the limb in question at times.

What causes Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

There is no definite cause for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. A fracture or other injury in the affected area has sometimes been found to act as a trigger but this isn’t always the case.

Research suggests, that in one in ten cases there is no prior injury in the area where CRPS is found.

How can Complex Regional Pain Syndrome be treated?

There are many different ways to treat CRPS and different methods work for different individuals with different severities of the condition. The treatment methods include:


Physiotherapy is a rehabilitation therapy which is designed to help your affected area become more manageable and less difficult to use. It will help to build flexibility and strength in the affected area and the muscle surrounding it and experts believe physiotherapy is one of the most important methods of treatment for CRPS.

Exercise may be very difficult to begin with but your physiotherapist will be able to tailor your exercise to your strength levels and to what you can physically manage.

Occupational Therapy

You may be referred to an occupational therapist who will suggest a range of techniques which you can carry out in your own time and could make a real difference. Techniques such as desensitisation can help to normalise touch to the area where you feel pain.

Pain Management Programme

Referral to a specialist pain management centre or clinic may involve some group training and you will benefit from the experience from a wide range of different professionals from physiotherapist to counsellors and psychologists.  Together they will work to find a treatment for your condition.

Drug Therapy

The range of drugs available for CRPS is varied and different patients have different success rates with the therapies available. The drugs include:

  • Anticonvulsants such as gabapentin have been found to reduce pain signals from the nerves
  • Painkillers (analgesics) may be able to control moderate pain
  • Pamidronate which is a drug used to prevent the thinning of the bones can also provide pain relief and is used in some cases
  • Tricycle Antidepressants such as Amitriptyline in low doses can help to reduce pain signals from the nerves to the brain and are often prescribed if your pain is disrupting your sleep
  • Lidocaine patches can be applied to the affected area

Other methods of treatment include steroid therapy and in rare cases spinal cord stimulation and these are all things you can discuss in depth when organising your treatment plan.

Make an appointment to discuss Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

To discuss any concerns you have about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and to make an appointment with Dr Stephanie Barrett please just get in touch.