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Common Myths About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

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Common Myths About Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a rare type of chronic pain that affects about 200,000 Americans each year. The condition 一 notorious for causing severe pain in your arm or leg, is triggered often by a traumatic injury, a heart attack, or even a stroke. Because the condition is rare and not often discussed, there are many misconceptions about CRPS, and the following myths can unfortunately stop people from seeking the care they need. 

Double board-certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine, Bradley A Silva, MD, at Lakeshore Pain and Spine Center knows that CRPS awareness is essential when it comes to empowering people to ask for help managing CRPS. 

Read on as Dr. Silva debunks some of the common myths surrounding CRPS.

Myth #1: CRPS is just a normal pain response

Fact: Pain after any injury is normal. It’s a good thing! Pain tells your brain that something is wrong so you can take action to fix it. For example, if you break a bone in your leg, pain lets your brain know you need help. Your bone gets set, you avoid walking on it, and the bone can heal. 

However, CRPS isn’t a normal pain response. It's a neurological disorder that usually occurs after an injury or trauma, but the pain experienced is far more intense and prolonged than what you expect from your initial injury. 

Other symptoms may accompany the pain that can spread to other areas, such as:

  • Changes in skin color and texture
  • Changes in skin temperature
  • Swelling (edema)
  • Decreased function in the affected limb 
  • Changes in your nail and hair growth (either reduced or increased growth) 
  • Muscle spasms 

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have concerns about CRPS or chronic pain after any injury!

Myth #2: It is all in your head

Fact: CRPS is a physical condition. While its underlying causes are not completely understood, it's not a psychological disorder. The pain experienced with CRPS is real and can be excruciating, unfortunately.

The pain can affect your mental health. Chronic pain increases your risk of anxiety and depression.

Myth #3: CRPS shows up on X-rays 

Fact: X-rays might not always show clear evidence of CRPS. These tests can be beneficial in diagnosing your initial injury, such as a fracture, but they aren’t always helpful in diagnosing CRPS. 

Instead, Dr. Silva may diagnose CRPS through a physical exam and a review of your medical history and symptoms. 

Myth #4: CRPS is rare, so you do not have to worry about it 

Fact: CRPS is rare, but that doesn’t lessen its impact on your quality of life if you have it. CRPS leads to significant disability, decreased mobility, and potentially extreme emotional distress. Even if you don’t have it, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms and spread awareness about the condition. In this way, you can potentially help others who do have CRPS.

Myth #5: There is one treatment approach for CRPS

Fact: As a complex condition, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for CRPS. Treatment approaches vary from person to person and may involve a combination of medication, physical therapy, and psychological support. 

Your specific treatment also depends on what type of CRPS you have. Type 1 occurs after an injury that didn’t harm your nerves, while type 2 occurs after an injury that did impact your nerves (such as a crush injury). 

Myth #6: People with CRPS are just seeking attention

Fact: CRPS is a debilitating condition. Those affected often face disbelief or skepticism due to its complexity and lack of widespread awareness. Most individuals with CRPS seek understanding, validation, and appropriate medical care rather than attention.

Myth #7: You can not prevent CRPS

Fact: While there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to the underlying causes of CRPS, some studies indicate there are things you can do to help reduce your risk of developing CRPS. This includes taking 500-1000 milligrams of vitamin C after you break a bone and practicing early mobilization for stroke patients.

Get help for CRPS in Kenosha, Wisconsin 

Lakeshore Pain and Spine Center offers personalized approaches to address CRPS. Dr. Silva creates a comprehensive treatment strategy for CRPS based on the type and severity of your symptoms. Your potential treatments may include:

  • Medication 
  • Physical therapy
  • Interventional pain techniques (like sympathetic nerve blocks or spinal cord stimulation)
  • Surgical interventions
  • Incorporation of psychotherapy

Help is just a call or click away. You can reach our Kenosha, Wisconsin, location at 262-484-4035 or request an appointment online today.