May 25, 2020

Understanding Injury known as CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) or RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy)

CRPS stands for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and is sometimes referred to as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, or RSD. CRPS is a rare but serious form of chronic pain resulting from nerve damage that generally affects arms or legs after trauma to that part of the body. CRPS arises most frequently as a result of a traumatic workplace injury involving damage to a nerve root, or as a result of one or more surgeries to repair a fracture, burn, or some other injury.

One of the most common traits of CRPS is that pain appears to be greater than what would be expected for the injury or as a result of normal activities. Symptoms of CRPS include severe swelling, a “waxy” appearance, discoloration, unusual temperature changes, and/or unusual hair growth to the extremity. There is no decisive test to confirm CRPS for an injured worker. However, some tests do provide guidance. One is a bone scan, which may indicate a degree of bone loss associated with CRPS. Another test is to prescribe nerve blocks and then evaluate how the extremity responds.

Too often individuals are treated for pain without any relief. Trigger point injections, physical therapy, epidural injections, ketamine, and pain pumps are just some of the various forms of treatment which seemingly have little effect on the pain from CRPS.

Otherwise minor injuries that result in CRPS can get overlooked without proper treatment. This can be difficult as the cause for CRPS is not commonly understood, and insurance companies often push back against such claims. Conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome or other joint and back ailments are often easily shown to be caused by your job duties. Other forms of chronic pain, including those involving the nervous system, may not be so obvious.

If a doctor has given you a diagnosis of CRPS as the result of a workplace injury or if you are injured at work and your pain simply will not resolve despite compliance with treatment, it is strongly recommended that you seek experienced counsel immediately.

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