RSD (Reflex sympathetic dystrophy) and CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome) are both terms used to describe a condition of intense pain that affects and arm or leg. The condition shows the patients experiencing pain beyond what would be expected from an injury or following surgery or a stroke.
Millions of people are affected by RSD & CRPS, any persons between ages 10 and 60 can be affected, but it occurs most often in younger women. There are actually two types of CRPS, type I and type II. Type one usually occurs after an injury or an illness and type II is usually caused by a specific nerve injury.
What are the symptoms of RSD & CRPS?
RSD & CRPS is characterized by a burning, throbbing pain in the arm, hand, leg, or foot. Sensitivity to cold and touch, variations in skin color and texture, swelling and stiffness of the joints, spasms and atrophy of the muscles, and decreased mobility in the affected limb are all symptoms of RSD & CRPS.
How is RSD & CRPS diagnosed?
Diagnosis of RSD & CRPS includes using tests like bone scans, sympathetic nervous system testing, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and x-rays. These ttest the bodies systems functioning and look for underlying causes that could be causing the symptoms.
What are the treatments for RSD & CRPS?
Treatment begins with OTC (over the counter) medications like acetaminophen, (Tylenol), and NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen, (Motrin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Prescription medications like Neurontin are often used to treat neuropathic (nerve) pain. When these medications prove ineffective nerve block injections are often used.
What can be expected when a patient gets treatment?
Nerve block injections are usually very effective in relieving pain and so the patient receiving this treatment has a high expectation of experiencing relief. Over half of patients that undergo the injections experience 50% or greater reduction in felt pain levels.
How are the injections performed?
The nerve block injection is an outpatient procedure and typically takes less than a half hour and is followed by another half hour of observation to watch for adverse reactions to the drugs used. The patient is placed on an exam table and the area to be injected cleaned and numbed. With the aid of a device called a fluoroscope, which is a real time x-ray machine that allows the doctor to see the needle being inserted, the doctor inserts a thin needle to a precise location.
Contrast dye is injected to confirm the medication will go where desired and then the actual medications are injected. After the injection is complete the needle is withdrawn and a simple bandage is placed on the injection site.
How long do the effects of the injections last?
These injections usually provide relief for extended periods of time, often for several months at a time after the full series of injections have been performed. The first treatment may provide relief for several days to several weeks and after the full treatment the relief may last for several months.
What risk or side effects are there possible with these injections?
Risks and side effects are minimal and include slight bruising, swelling, and bleeding at the injection site. In very rare cases a person may have an allergic reaction to the medications and in even more rare cases a nerve or blood vessel may be damaged from the needle, but this is very rare.
How successful are they for the relief of pain?
These injections have proven to be very effective and provide better than 50% reduction in pain levels for over half of patients that receive them. Discuss your condition with your doctor to determine if you could benefit from the procedure.