Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) can be described as “confusion” of your somatosensory nervous system. A bit like someone that you know who might have taken what you have said out of context, took it in a completely wrong way, and blamed you for all his/her misfortunes, your nervous system has decided to react to something in a rather inappropriate manner and is throwing a massive tantrum.
(This actually occurs to a degree in most chronic pain conditions, but more obvious in CRPS)
When you have CRPS you might not only have excruciating pain constantly, you may have persistent swelling, change in skin colour or appearance, loss of coordination of the limb and inexplicable inflammation-like symptoms.
No one really knows why this confusion of nervous system occurs (although there are many opinions and theories) but it is not necessary to know WHY, in order work on it.
Important thing, is that you understand that this condition is something to do with the BEHAVIOUR of YOUR NERVES, and DEFINITELY NOT "muscle tightness", "joints being out", "being overweight", "being unfit" etc.
A 45-year-old female attended our clinic referred by her surgeon. She had a fall about 8 months prior, breaking her ankle. She had a successful operation to fixate this. However due to the persistent nature of severe pain even after the surgery, she had been unable to put the weight on the foot. A diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome was given.
By the time the patient attended our clinic she was still on crutches, with minimal weightbear on the foot (we expect patients to be off crutches usually in two months) . The treatment consisted of the following points:
- education for patient to understand the cause of pain
- learning cognitive skills to practice different and more helpful strategies for pain
- learning to be "ok with pain" while focusing on activities that she considered meaningful in her life
- exercise to gently and gradually introduce movement and load to the foot and ankle
- gradual resolution of fear in certain activities
- desensitisation of the hypersensitive area
After four months of consistent and hard work (attending the clinic up to 3x per week and openly discussing and altering her strategies) she was able to walk 40min with a single crutch, and move aroud short distances unaided.
She could return to being the mother that she wanted to be at home, and begin work if she desired to do so. While she was not yet "fully recovered", how much the ankle and the pain impacted on her life changed dramatically, and so did her general outlook and experience of life.
Retraining your nervous system is the key
In short, our management of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (in fact most chronic pain and fatigue conditions) is focused on influencing manipulable elements will result in positive changes in neural behaviour.
Most of the time these elements consists of three areas:
- physical (e.g. exercise)
- psychological (e.g. introducing different cognitive skills to process painful experience)
- social (e.g. your relationship with your surroundings - family, work etc)
It will take compelling effort often for an extended period of time (months to years) from all parties involved to achieve recovery, but we believe that this always can be done with consistency, clinically accurate management, and right environment.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us (email if you have a bigger query) and tell us about your conditions to take the first step towards your recovery.