Do you have pain from an old injury that seems out of proportion to the severity of the injury, and has the pain continued long after your injury healed? Do you have unexplained pain that’s severely limiting your daily activities?

If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, you might have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Called CRPS for short (and also referred to as “reflex sympathetic dystrophy”), this debilitating condition can make it impossible to work, perform daily activities, or even get out of bed.

Many patients are told CRPS is “all in your head,” and they plunge into a state of confusion, anxiety, and depression. This chronic pain syndrome isn’t all in your head and it can be complicated and difficult to treat.

CRPS Symptoms

The symptoms of CRPS are usually heavily localized, which means they’re present in only one part of the body. It usually continues long after the associated injury that caused the pain has healed, and it increases rapidly in severity.

Although it may affect only one limb or joint, CRPS can be so severe that it makes you feel like you don’t want to move at all. The slightest stimulus, even just the touch of a bed sheet, can trigger extreme, unusual pain.

In addition to severe, debilitating pain, some people experiencing this chronic regional pain syndrome also report the following symptoms:


  • Discoloration of the skin in the affected area, which makes the skin look thin or shiny
  • Unusual hair or nail growth
  • Unexplained sweating near the site of the pain
  • Problems with unpredictable jerking movements or tremors


CRPS Causes

Although the exact cause of CRPS isn’t always clear, most pain specialists believe it’s caused by a long-term misfiring of nerve signals around the site of an injury. When patients have a confirmed nerve injury, they’re said to have Type II CRPS; people with no confirmed nerve injuries are said to have Type I CRPS.


  • Type I doesn’t have a confirmed physical cause, so some specialists think the pain may have a psychological component. Even so, a psychological cause doesn’t make the pain any less real or debilitating.
  • Type II CRPS usually occurs after an injury of some kind. The cause of the pain heals, but discomfort continues, in some cases becoming almost unbearable.

Our CRPS Treatment Options

In some cases, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome isn’t too severe, and the unusual pain goes away by itself. In other cases, pain specialists try multiple approaches to Complex Regional Pain Syndrome treatment.

Treating the Body

Medication is rarely helpful for this condition. Instead, pain specialists focus on treatments that can retrain the affected nerves to process pain signals differently. Pain specialists can’t always make the pain go away, but they can decrease the severity of pain and make it more manageable.

One option to be considered is nerve ablation. This procedure uses radio frequency waves to halt nerve pain signals.

Spinal stimulation is an interventional procedure that uses small electrodes to disrupt pain signals to the brain. Our specialists start by placing electrodes on top of the skin and activating them to see whether electrical stimulation improves pain symptoms. If it does, they place these medically approved electrodes beneath the skin near the spinal cord for even more effective treatment.

Help for the Mind

Chronic, ongoing pain can severely limit your activities and put a significant damper on your social life. Many patients are hard on themselves, telling themselves their pain is imaginary. In some cases, family members seem impatient and unsupportive. All of these stressors, in addition to exhaustion from constant pain, take a significant toll.

Psychological treatment is often a big component of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome treatment. If you have CRPS, and you’re experiencing significant depression and anxiety, don’t hesitate to discuss these symptoms with your pain specialist. All Heilman Center locations offer treatment in a hospital environment, giving you access to both highly qualified pain specialists and certified mental health professionals.

Get Help Now

Our pain specialists have experience with researching and treating complicated chronic pain.

Don’t continue suffering or feeling frustrated because you can’t find answers.

Schedule an appointment at the Heilman Center for Pain and Spine Care now by calling 734-796-7555 or filling out our contact form.