Identifying Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS, is not defined by one single set of symptoms. As its name suggests, it is a more wide-reaching term that refers to long-lasting and excessive pain in an arm or a leg. Sometimes the pain comes on suddenly, and may be the result of a minor touch. Skin may change in temperature or color, and there may be swelling. If you suspect you might be suffering from CRPS, you should consult with a physician. Here are some potential symptoms to keep an eye out for.

Spontaneous Pain

The type of pain that is typically associated with CRPS is, fortunately, relatively easy to identify. It is usually described as feeling “pins and needles” on the skin, or a burning pain. If it comes on suddenly and without any obvious cause, this could be a sign of CRPS. This can get worse over time and with inflammation. There are methods for treating inflammation, as well.

Prolonged Pain

Sometimes this may come as a result of even brief skin contact, or maybe after use of the affected part, but prolonged pain coming from excess sensitivity in the area can be a sign of CRPS. This can also be the result of what would normally be considered only slightly painful, such as a pin prick.

Skin Changes

One of the symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome that might not be obviously associated with excessive pain is how the skin of the affected limb may change. It may change in temperature, or the color may change, and you may even notice a change in the texture of the skin – sometimes to thicker and scalier skin, and other times to thinner and shinier skin. As for color change, it could become paler or even blue, gray, purple, red, or blotchy. Keeping an eye out for these signs and consulting with your doctor is important.

Joint Stiffness

Because pain often causes us to move our affected limbs less and less, this means the associated joints may stiffen because ligaments and tendons have become significantly less flexible. Nerves may get pinched or rubbed in the process as well, which increases the pain one is experiencing.

Muscle Concerns

While CRPS can show in many different ways, it is rare that muscle nerves are injured. That said, since there is often reduced mobility in affected limbs, this can cause movement and strength of the related muscles to be impaired overall, and inflammation will affect muscles adversely, as well.


Living with chronic pain can be difficult, but getting the proper treatment, whether medication or alternative therapies, can be a step in the right direction to helping ease some of your CRPS symptoms. Always consult your doctor and give them a full description of your symptoms, when and how they present, so that they can come up with a treatment regimen that works for you and for your lifestyle. After all, the treatment shouldn’t cause more discomfort, it should only ease it.

Maryland Pain & Wellness

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