Complex Regional Pain Syndrome


Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a condition that typically affects a specific area of the body, often the extremities, and is characterized by symptoms such as pain, changes in skin color, and other sensations.

People who experience complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) typically report pain in their arms or legs. This condition often arises after an injury, surgery, stroke, or heart attack, and the level of pain experienced is disproportionate to the initial injury’s severity.

Adults are more frequently affected by CRPS than children. Around 40 years old is when the peak onset occurs. People assigned as female at birth experience CRPS more frequently than people born as male. Most cases—between 66% and 80%—are seen in people of European ancestry.

CRPS is a rare condition and the cause is unknown. Early treatment offers the best chance for success, with recovery and even remission being possible in these cases.


CRPS symptoms and signs include:

  • Sensitive to cold or touch
  • Continual throbbing or burning pain, commonly in the hand, foot, arm, or leg
  • Swelling in the location of pain
  • The hair and nails grow differently
  • Joint inflammation, stiffness, and damage
  • Weakness (atrophy), tremors, and muscle spasms
  • Reduced mobility of the affected body portion
  • You may experience a difference in temperature on the skin of your extremity compared to the opposite one. This could manifest as either a sensation of warmth or coolness.
  • Alterations in skin color, ranging from white and blotchy to red or blue
  • Alterations in the appearance of the skin, which could become tender, shiny or thin in the affected area

Symptoms can vary from person to person and can alter over time. Typically, symptoms like pain, swelling, redness, temperature changes that are apparent, and hypersensitivity (especially to cold and touch) come first.

CRPS is a condition that can cause various symptoms in a specific part of the body, typically the limbs, including pain, changes in skin color, and other symptoms. Over time, the affected limb may become colder and paler, and may experience muscle stiffness, spasms, and changes in the skin and nails. In some cases, when these changes occur, the condition may become difficult to cure.

On rare occasions, CRPS can travel from its site to another part of the body, like the opposing limb.

For some individuals, the signs and symptoms of CRPS can resolve spontaneously, while others may experience them for an extended period, even lasting several years. Starting treatment early in the disease course is more likely to be effective in managing the condition.

Consult your doctor to find out what’s causing any ongoing, excruciating pain in a limb that makes using or touching it appear intolerable. Early CRPS treatment is important for the best chance of recovery and possible remission.


Although the exact cause of CRPS is not entirely clear, it is thought to arise from an imbalance or damage to the peripheral and central nervous systems. Typically, this condition occurs following a trauma or injury.

There are two forms of CRPS that have comparable symptoms but different underlying causes:

  • Type 1. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) develops following an illness or injury that didn’t directly harm the nerves in the affected limb. Ninety percent of those who experience CRPS are type 1 sufferers.
  • Type 2. This type, formerly known as causalgia, exhibits symptoms that are comparable to those of type 1. However, type 2 CRPS develops after a specific nerve damage.

Many CRPS cases follow a forceful trauma to the arm or leg. This might involve a fracture or a crushing injury. CRPS can also result from other major and minor traumas, including surgery, heart attacks, infections, and even sprained ankles.

Why these damages can cause CRPS is not entirely clear. Not every person who sustains this kind of injury will later develop CRPS. It could be brought on by unusual interactions between your central and peripheral nerve systems as well as other inflammatory reactions.