Tag Archives: crps physiotherapy

14Nov/14

5 facts about complex regional pain syndrome | CRPS

 

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

28Sep/14

CRPS – the narrative holds the clues |#CRPS

The story told by the patient with CRPS provides insight into their suffering, characterised and brought to life by their chosen language, body posturing, body language, and changing facial expressions. The priming for a condition frequently arises months or years before from an illness, a stressful event, a previous injury or painful event. The way in which the body systems respond to the prior challenge creates a learning experience so that when the body is faced with another similar threat, the responses swiftly kick in. In CRPS this can be with absolute gusto as the level of protection reaches the stratosphere in many cases.

One of the common problems in CRPS is an altered sense of the body, particularly where the condition manifests but this can extend to that whole side of the body. Careful testing of movement precision and sensation identifies these changes as does questioning about clumsiness and the feel of the body. The feel of the body has a substrate in at least the sensory cortex — neurons + immune cells and their neurotransmitters and cytokines.

On questioning, people will volunteer that the limb feels detached, as if it does not belong to them, the sense of size changes and that it does not do what they demand. This is vital information as this identifies a key feature of CRPS (and other pain problems) that must be addressed with understanding and specific training. It is highly unlikely that pain will improve until body sense and precision improves.

So, as a patient you should always explain this feeling, strange (and scary) as it may appear, and as a clinician you should always ask.

London CRPS clinic with Richmond Stace — call now to book your first appointment 07932 689081

01Jul/13

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome | Diagnosis using the Budapest Criteria

The Budapest Criteria should now be used to diagnose Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS):

A: The patient has continuing pain which is disproportionate to the inciting event

B: The patient has at least one sign in two or more of the categories

C: The patient reports at least one symptom in three or more of the categories

D: No other diagnosis can better explain the signs and symptoms

Sensory: Allodynia (to light touch and/or temperature sensation and/or deep somatic pressure and/or joint movement) and/or hyperalgesia (to pinprick)

Vasomotor: Temperature asymmetry (more than 1 deg.) and/or skin colour changes and/or skin colour asymmetry

Sudomotor/oedema: Oedema and/or sweating changes and/or sweating asymmetry

Motor/trophic: Decreased range of motion and/or motor dysfunction (weakness, tremor, dystonia) and/or trophic changes (hair/nail/skin)

Signs – see or feel a problem

Symptoms – patient reports a problem

Click here for The CRPS Concise Guide on the Royal College of Physicians website

If you have been diagnosed or think that you may have CRPS, contact us for information or to book an appointment to start your specialist treatment and training programme; call 07932 689081

CRPS UK Blog for the latest research and thinking in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

 

 

29Sep/11

Mastering your rehabilitation – Part 1: why exercise & train?

When we sustain an injury or experience a painful condition, our movement changes. In the early stages this can be obvious, for example we would limp having sprained an ankle. Sometimes the limp, medically termed an ‘antalgic gait’, persists without the individual being aware. This is the same for other forms of guarding that is part of the body’s way of protecting itself. By tightening the affected area or posturing in a manner that withdraws, the body is changing the way that we work so that healing can proceed. Clearly this is very intelligent and useful. The problem lies with persisting guarding or protection that continues to operate.

 

We know that when the brain is co-ordinating a response to a threat, a number of systems are active. This includes the nervous system, the motor system, the immune system and the endocrine system (hormones). This is all part of a defence in and around the location that is perceived to be under threat. It is important to be able to move away from danger and then to limit movement, firstly to escape from the threat (e.g. withdraw your hand from a hot plate) and then to facilitate the natural process of healing by keeping the area relatively immobilised. Interestingly, at this point our beliefs about the pain and injury will determine how we behave and what action we take. If we are concerned that there is a great deal of damage and that movement will cause further injury, we will tend to keep the area very still, looking out for anything or anyone who may harm us. Over-vigilance can lead to over-protection and potentially lengthen the recovery process. This is one reason why seeking early advice and understanding your pain and injury is important, so that you can optimise your potential for recovery.

We have established that we move differently when we are injured and in pain. In more chronic cases, the changes in movement and control of movement can be quite subtle. An experienced physiotherapist will be able to detect these and other protective measures that are being taken. These must be dealt with, because if we are not moving properly, this is a reason for the body to keep on protecting itself through feedback and feed-forward mechanisms. Re-training movement normalises the flow of information to and from the tissues to the brain. Often this process needs enhancement or enrichment as the sensory flow and position sense (proprioception) is not efficient. Movement is vital for tissue and brain health, nourishing the tissues with oxygen and chemicals that stimulate health and growth.

To train normal movement is to learn. The body is learning to move effectively and this process is the same as learning a golf shot, a tennis stroke, a language or a musical instrument. Mastery. You are asking yourself to master normal movement. What does this take? Consistency, discipline, practice (and then some more practice), time, dedication, awareness and more. The second part of this blog will look at mastery as a concept that can help you understand the way in which you can achieve success with your rehabilitation.

21Jul/11

Treatment Update

Come and see the updated treatment programme page. We are regularly updating the site so do check back. This is when there is new knowledge or research that adds to our understanding of pain and how we can best treat on-going problems.

09Jun/11

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – ‘it feels weird’

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) often presents with a number of signs and symptoms. The main complaints are usually pain, colour change (minute to minute sometimes), temperature change, swelling, sweating changes, skin/nail/hair changes (trophic) and an altered perception of the affected part. It is this last sense that I am going to focus upon in this blog.

I hear many different descriptions of the symptoms of CRPS and actually encourage the use of a wide range of words. This is so that I can develop a really good picture and insight into the individual’s experience which is exactly that, individual. One aspect that I am particularly interested in is the perception of the affected area. In the vast majority, if not all, cases there is an altered sense of the region. For example, in the case of the hand it can feel bigger (sausage fingers often a good description of the feel), swollen, distorted, out of place, detached, like it belongs to someone else, like it is not there unless looked at (visual input to confirm presence) or denial that it is there at all (denial – similar to those who suffer strokes).

This variety of descriptions paint the picture of a ‘stranger’ aspect of the condition, often claimed to be ‘weird feelings’ as they are so abstract and like nothing before. Clearly this can be worrying and sometimes I hear that when the descriptions are given to others there maybe disbelief. Any aspect of a problem that creates fear or anxiety can affect pain and must be addressed.

So what is going on? When we have an on-going painful problem and we are not moving normally, changes occur within the central nervous system to give us this different experience. In the brain we have maps, virtual maps, that the brain uses to work out where sensory information is coming from and control movement. These maps are well defined under normal circumstances with a genetic blueprint that is moulded by experiences. This precise definition relies on a constant stream of information coming in from the tissues. In the case that this flow is altered or stopped, the map changes. We know this from fMRI studies that demonstrate reorganisation of the brain in certain areas. Certain representations of body parts are found to be in different locations in pain states. In fact, many brain changes have been found in chronic pain, these changes underpinning our different experiences of the body. The good news is that with effective treatment of the pain, these changes are reversed. Effective treatment will be the subject of another blog, but this includes such therapies as graded motor imagery and others that seek to ‘redefine the maps’.

In summary, chronic pain states, including CRPS and back pain, we know that the cortical (brain) maps change and that this is the reason why the affected area can feel ‘weird’, out of place and just not right. The map is ‘smudged’. In a sense this is useful as it draws our attention to something that needs dealing with imminently. The focus of treatment for this is upon ‘redefining’ the maps, the same for a range of conditions. In fact, my view is that this is what modern rehabilitation is really about in essence, via normalisation of sensation, motor control and the congruence of these factors, alongside the traditional strength gains and tissue changes. Our understanding of smudging and cortical reorganisation has triggered a change in thinking for rehabilitation, targeting the brain, training the brain and offering science based solutions for chronic pain.

The pictures are from the book ‘Explain Pain

05May/11

Managing your flare-up

A flare-up is when the symptoms increase for a period of time. Sometimes it is clear why this happens such as after new activities or exercise, an increase in activity levels, when you are unwell, stressed or fatigued. In other cases there is no obvious reason as the routine has not changed and you cannot think of a reason why the pain has worsened.

Your brain will know why as it is responding to a potential threat. The brain is constantly monitoring the body and the environment through the senses and other body systems (e.g. endocrine, immune) and responds accordingly. Visual input has a significant effect and when we see others moving in a particular way or doing certain tasks, a threat value can be determined even though it is not ourselves doing it! For example, observing someone bend over and pick up a heavy box can evoke pain in our backs. The message is that our pain and perception of our body can change in response to things that we see.

So what do you do?

To manage a flare-up actively means that you can ride the storm more effectively and also learn about the process for greater effect if there is a further flare later on. In essence it is trying to remain active but tolerably.

1. Continue to break up sustained activities into chunks (pacing) as instructed by your therapist in terms of the timing. I would suggest as a ball park figure that 50% of the time it takes for the pain to enforce a change or cessation of activities should be a start point.
2. ‘Little & often': change position, move affected body part (avoid the area stiffening and provoking a worry about then moving) and other areas.
3. Use your prescribed exercises but in a calm way, i.e. Relaxed or meditative breathing before to ‘calm the seas’, think positively rather than dwelling on negative thoughts that can evoke other brain responses. Be flexible in the repetitions, for example, split the sets into shorter bouts but spread out over the day.
4. Before moving the affected area or undertaking the exercises, move regions that are remote or on the other side first. For example, if it is a foot problem, move the other knee and foot first, or the hip and knee on that side initially.
5. Pain relief as prescribed
6. If you are feeling unwell with a flare-up, manage as if you are sick. Your body is in a restorative mode and you must treat it as such, including rest periods.
7. Remember that this flare-up will pass.

Take the advice of your health professional in terms of the timings, repetitions and exercises. All activities should not be causing further increases in symptoms. It should be tolerable.

Little and often
Motion is lotion
Be consistent with your activities

For further information contact us on 07518 445493