Thanks to modern pain science we know a huge amount about complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Of course there is much more to know, and the way in which we think and take action to tackle the problem will evolve accordingly.
Here are 5 facts that I believe to be important:
1. The pain is not directly related to the extent of the injury or damage — the pain in CRPS can be unimaginably horrendous without any great change in the tissue health. Remember that pain is part of the way that the body protects itself, and not an indicator of tissue damage.
2. The affected limb can feel very different to the way it looks; size and temperature included.It can even feel like it does not belong, being described as detached or ‘not mine’. The loss of sense of ownership is because the brain provides this sense, but can also modulate it.
3. The symptoms can change according to your mood and the way you feel — stress can often make the pain worse. This is due to the perceived threat to the whole person triggering protection.
4. Seeing someone else move their corresponding body part can hurt. The brain starts to plan the same movement and will also protect at this stage, causing actual pain.
5. The limb changes colour because of blood flow changes. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls blood flow. This is the system that responds to perceived threat — ‘freeze, flight or fright’. In essence it is a system that responds to how and what we think. When we are embarrassed, we turn red (blood flow). This is because of the way in which we think about the situation:’ I have said something that I now think is silly’, ‘Is he looking at me?’ The ANS can also become sensitive, and is very involved with CRPS — colour change, altered sense of size, sweaty palms etc.
Suffering complex regional pain syndrome? Visit my specialist CRPS clinic in London to start your programme: call 07518 445493