Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a rare and chronic condition that affects the nervous system, causing intense and often debilitating pain. It is a poorly understood disorder that can develop after an injury or surgery, but sometimes occurs without an obvious trigger. CRPS is most commonly found in adults, but can also affect children and teenagers. In this blog, we will discuss CRPS in the UK, including the prevalence of the condition, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has provided Guidelines for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in adults.
Type of CRPS
Loosely categorised, there are three subtypes of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) according to the Valencia Consensus- Based Adaption of the IASP Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Diagnostic Criteria (2019). These are:
- Type 1/CRPS I or Type 2/CRPS II
- CRPS With Some Remitting Features
- CRPS – Not Otherwise Specified (CRPS-NOS)
Prevalence of CRPS in the UK
CRPS is considered a relatively rare condition, with an estimated prevalence of around 5.46 cases per 100,000 people in the UK. However, due to the complexity of diagnosis, lack of understanding and the varied presentation of symptoms which can be similar to other conditions, it is possible that this figure underestimates the true incidence of the condition.
The prevalence of the condition is more in women than men and in children also affects more girls than boys.
Symptoms of CRPS
CRPS usually begins in one area of the body, but it can affect any part of the body. The symptoms of CRPS can vary from person to person, and may be mild or severe. Some common symptoms include:
- Intense and chronic pain in the affected limb, which may be described as burning, throbbing, or aching.
- Sensitivity to touch or temperature, with even light pressure causing pain.
- Swelling, redness, and changes in skin temperature and texture in the affected limb.
- Stiffness, weakness, and difficulty moving the affected limb.
- Muscle spasms and tremors.
- Changes in hair and nail growth patterns in the affected limb.
Causes of CRPS
The exact cause of CRPS is not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to a malfunction of the nervous system. The condition often develops after an injury or surgery, but sometimes occurs without an obvious trigger. Risk factors for developing CRPS include:
- A previous history of nerve damage or injury.
- Conditions that affect blood vessels, such as diabetes or Raynaud’s disease.
- Surgery or other medical procedures that involve nerve damage.
- Emotional stress or trauma.
Diagnosis of CRPS
Currently there is no one particular clinical test or scan that will give a definite positive diagnosis of CRPS and therefore diagnosing CRPS can be challenging. The Budapest Criteria is used to diagnose CRPS. Doctors will typically conduct a physical examination, take a detailed medical history, and perform tests to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. These may include X-rays, MRI scans, nerve conduction tests, and blood tests
Treatment of CRPS
There is currently no cure for CRPS, and treatment focuses on managing symptoms and improving quality of life. Some common treatments include:
- Pain relief medication, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids or patches.
- Physiotherapy and exercise to improve range of motion and strength in the affected limb.
- Nerve blocks, which involve injecting medication into the affected nerves to block pain signals.
- Spinal cord stimulation (“SCS”), which involves implanting a device that sends electrical impulses to the nerves in the affected area, to relieve pain.
- Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation (“DRG”) which is similar to SCS and involves implanting a device in your spine to send mild electrical impulses to the area of the DRG in your spine
In conclusion, CRPS is a rare and chronic condition that affects the nervous system, causing intense and often debilitating pain. Although there is no cure for CRPS, a range of treatments are available to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of CRPS, it is important to seek medical attention to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
It is important to seek early advice if you have been involved in an accident or trauma as getting early assistance is vital in ensuring you receive the right help and advice.
Cromptons Solicitors specialise is CRPS cases and its Director is one of the founding Trustees of Burning Nights CRPS Support.
Cromptons Solicitors work alongside Burning Nights CRPS Support, the UK’s independent CRPS charity, whose mission it is to “bring together the CRPS community to ensure people whose lives have been touched by this condition are not alone.
Burning Nights aim to raise awareness of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and provide education so that more people across healthcare and in the public understand the condition and its debilitating effects. From education, training and campaigning to advice and support, they are on a mission to change the way that CRPS is looked at, managed and treated.
Further Information can be found at www.cromptonssolicitors.co.uk
Burning Nights can be contacted www.burningnightscrps.org