Complex regional pain syndrome type 2 (CRPS type 2) affects around 2.5 percent of people with a peripheral nerve injury. Peripheral nerves are what link the body to the brain and spinal cord, and they are responsible for movement, sensation, and pain. An injury to one of these nerves means it is stretched, pinched, or otherwise damaged in some way because of an accident or illness like diabetes. People with CRPS type 2 feel chronic pain in one or more of their limbs. Finding out more about this condition can help you understand and manage it.
What You Need to Know About CRPS Type 2
In This Article:
- What Is CRPS?
- How Is CRPS Categorized?
- What Are the Symptoms of CRPS Type 2?
- What Happens When You Have CRPS Type 2?
- How Is CRPS Diagnosed?
- How Is CRPS Treated?
What is CRPS?
CRPS, sometimes called regional pain syndrome or reflex sympathetic dystrophy, is a chronic pain condition that happens to some people after an injury or medical problem. For example, a person might develop this painful disease after having a stroke or getting hit by a baseball. It only affects about 200,000 people in the U.S., so it is kind of rare. Why it happens to some and not others isn’t well understood.
How is CRPS Categorized?
CRPS is broken down into two categories:
- Type 1
- Type 2
The first type, Type 1, also called sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD), occurs after an injury or illness that didn’t actually damage a nerve which leads to the leg or arm that hurts. Sympathetic refers to feeling pain in one place when the injury was somewhere else. You might feel pain in your right leg even though the injury was to your back, for example.
CRPS type 2 means there was an injury to the nerve that feeds the limb that hurts. If you feel pain in your right leg, there was an injury of some kind to the nerve that goes to that leg.
Type 1 is the more common condition, affecting around 90 percent of people with CRPS.
People who have type 2 usually suffer from a serious injury to that limb, such as a crushing fracture or even an amputation. A person who has their leg amputated can continue to feel pain in that leg even though it is gone. This happens because the nerve leading to that leg is damaged.
What are the Symptoms of CRPS Type 2?
The symptoms of CRPS type 1 and type 2 are the same:
- Pain in an arm, leg, hand, or foot that doesn’t stop
- The area is sensitive to cold and heat
- Swelling in the limb
- The limb may sweat or feel cold
- The skin color may change so it is red or blue
- The skin texture may change so it looks shiny and thin
- The hair and nails may grow differently
In addition, a person with CRPS type 2 will feel numbness and weakness in that limb and have problems moving it. They may also start to experience similar symptoms in the other limb. A person with this pain syndrome might feel it in the right foot first but get it in the left one over time.
What Happens When You Have CRPS Type 2?
Without treatment, CRPS type 2 can cause problems in the limb such as:
- Atrophy - This means the muscle, bone, and skin tissue will waste away, leaving the limb shrunken and useless. The deterioration can cause even more pain and make moving the limb impossible.
- Contracture - This means the muscles supporting the limb will get tight from lack of use. If you have CRPS in your right hand, the fingers will pull in toward the palm and stay that way.
These complications can be disabling, but early treatment reduces the risks.
How is CRPS Diagnosed?
To diagnose reflex sympathetic dystrophy, the doctor will start with a physical exam and discuss your medical history with you. The goal is to rule out another problem that might be causing the pain and to pinpoint how the initial nerve damage occurred.
Although there is no specific test for CRPS type 2, ordering certain ones can help make the diagnosis such as:
- Bone scan to look for changes in the bone density of the affected limb
- Sympathetic nervous system tests to measure how the nerves are reacting in the area and other limbs. The tests record things like sweat production and skin temperature.
- Imaging tests like an x-ray or MRI allow them to see changes in the tissue and bones, as well.
It is a combination of tests and observations that let the physician make a diagnosis.
How is CRPS Treated?
Treatment consists of managing the pain with medication and various physical and medical therapies. Controlling chronic pain improves the movement of the limb and reduces the risk of complications like atrophy. Dr. Smith suggests a line up of new CRPS treatments:
- CRPS Treatment Protocol
- Supplements for Improvement of Lymphatic Flow
- Reducing GI Inflammation
- Vitamin D
- Mitochondrial Support
- Reduce Galectin – 3
- Methylation Support
Other treatments can include:
- Over the counter pain medication
- Topical analgesics
- Nerve-blocking drugs
- Prescription anesthetic
The doctor might also order physical therapy along with:
- Heat therapy
- Mirror therapy
- Spinal cord stimulation
In severe cases, the implantation of an intrathecal drug pump can put the pain medicine directly into the spinal fluid for advanced pain control.
Learn more about CRPS and how pain starts in this video by Jackson Welch:
Complex regional pain syndrome is a complicated disease that can have a widespread effect on a person’s life. Early treatment and pain management can help keep it from being debilitating. Dr. Smith's CRPS Protocol has been successful in most forms of complex regional pain.
What other questions do you have about CRPS type 2, its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments? Don't hesitate to share them in the comments section below.
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Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. None of the nutritional products mentioned are intended to Diagnose, Treat, Cure, or Prevent any Disease.