Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

What is it?

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a chronic nerve pain condition usually affecting an arm, hand, leg or foot. It was previously known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD).

It commonly occurs after an injury or trauma. Its exact cause is unknown however it is believed to be caused by damage or malfunction to the nervous system.

There are no specific tests to diagnose the condition other than someone’s medical history and the signs and symptoms they present with.

Symptoms tend to be specific to the affected site and include:

  • Changes in skin texture Eg shiny
  • Changes in skin colour and temperature
  • Abnormal sweating
  • Abnormal movement
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Swelling
  • Burning and pins and needles


Although this is often a debilitating condition that is challenging to treat there are treatments that have been shown to help. Treatment is often multifaceted and can include:

  • Physiotherapy to reduce pain, improve strength and restore normal functioning to the limb
  • Medication to reduce pain
  • Psychological support
  • Intervention therapy such as nerve blocks


Milder cases tend to recover very well whilst more severe cases may not fully recover