This disease, originally named Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and renamed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome involves abnormal firing of the sympathetic nerves. This causes pain in the affected area of the body, and since the sympathetic nerves are part of the fight or flight response, they affect blood vessels and sweat glands. The pain will usually be located all the way around an arm or leg from the site of injury all the way down to fingers or toes. This area will not only be excruciatingly painful and sensitive, it will have excess or deficient blood vessel flow and perspiration (as blood vessels and sweat glands are stimulated by these sympathetic nerves). In the first few weeks after the injury that causes RSD/CRPS, the sweat glands will cause marked sweating and blood vessels will open too widely, causing redness and swelling. Once the disorder becomes chronic, there will be a lack of perspiration and the area may vary between red and swollen to white or blue from lack of blood supply.
The overwhelming disability of RSD/CRPS is because of pain. This is typically very severe, unremitting, and disabling pain that is only blunted by medications for nerve pain – such as Lyrica, Gabapentin (Neurontin), Tegretol, Savella, and Cymbalta – and opiate pain relievers. However the key to the pain being from RSD is the color changing, swelling, sweating (or lack thereof), and the distribution of the pain. Pain from a regular nerve will be in a stripe around the torso or down the arm or leg. RSD/CRPS pain will be present all the way around from an old injury all the way down.
At the Mandarin Wellness Center we use Acupuncture, Frequency Specific Microcurrent, home microcurrent units, medications for nerve pain and pain relievers for RSD/CRPS. The results with daily treatment using a home microcurrent unit are impressive and often make the difference between overwhelming and disabling pain and manageable to no pain.
The challenges with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome are in suspecting the diagnosis and getting regular treatment to calm the hyper-irritable nervous system. This can make a huge difference in pain levels and quality of life.