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When To Speak Up About CRPS


You went in for what seemed to be routine surgery for a broken foot and the prognosis for recovery was good. But now, weeks later, you not only have trouble using your foot, but you’ve noticed swelling, changes in skin color and texture, and other problems. You may have CRPS.

What Is CRPS?

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a brutally disabling condition that normally affects the limbs, after surgery or injury. The main symptoms are swelling, loss of range of motion, severe pain, temperature changes, and fluctuations in the skin. Although CRPS can happen anywhere in the body, it usually affects a leg, an arm, hand, or foot.

CRPS most often happens after a trauma, like an amputation or fracture. It can even happen after something minor, like a sprained ankle. In rare cases, CRPS will happen suddenly, without obvious cause. It’s more likely to happen during times of heightened emotional stress.

Who Does It Affect?

CRPS affects people of all ages, though it usually hits its high point around the age of 40. The condition rarely occurs in children and the elderly and happens more in females than males. According to three studies reported in Sage Journals, “the incidence risk of CRPS in adults is between 3.7% and 14% using the Budapest criteria, with an observation of lower rates in conservatively managed fractures.” Many symptoms are treatable with ketamine therapy.

Talk To Someone About Your Condition

If you suffer constant, severe pain that harms a limb and makes moving or touching that limb seems unbearable, you should see your doctor as quickly as possible. It’s critical to treat CRPS early. You also should speak up if you experience any of the following symptoms of CRPS:

  • Uninterrupted throbbing or burning pain, usually in your arm, hand, leg, or foot
  • Sensitivity to cold or touch
  • Swelling of the affected area
  • Variations in skin temperature — varying between cold and sweaty
  • Variations in skin color, changing from blotchy and white to red or blue
  • Changes in skin texture, with tenderness setting in; shiny or thin in the affected area
  • Changes in nail and hair growth
  • Joint stiffness, damage, and swelling
  • Muscle spasms, weakness, tremors, and loss (atrophy)
  • Reduced ability to move the involved body part

CRPS has three stages, each getting progressively worse. Many of these symptoms are treatable, including with innovative ketamine therapy.

Are There Any Complications?

CRPS can result in complications you should watch for:

  • Your bones, skin, and muscles may start to fade and weaken if you stop or have trouble moving because of stiffness or pain.
  • You also may experience tightening of your muscles, where hands, fingers, or toes contract into a fixed position.

What Are The Causes of CRPS?

It is believed that CRPS happens due to damage to the nervous system. It can happen if the nervous system crashes. In most cases, it is sparked by a trauma or injury including:

  • Fractures
  • Sprains/strains
  • Burns, bruises, or cuts
  • Surgery
  • Trivial procedures, like a needle stick

CPRS affects all ages and is more common in women. It peaks around age 40. It’s uncommon in children and infrequent in the elderly. Some studies indicate that the condition has an “incidence between 5.5 and 26.2 cases per 100,000 people per year. The variation may result from the use of different diagnostic criteria.”


During an examination, a medical doctor will ask about medical history, the location and severity of the pain, and whether it happens at any time. Early on, before any symptoms develop, CRPS is difficult or impossible to diagnose. You may undergo X-Rays, bone scans, and electromyography and nerve conduction studies, and many others.

Treatment Options

Once diagnosed, CRPS can possibly be treated in many ways. Common methods include physical and occupational therapy, ketamine therapy, mirror therapy to trick your brain, desensitization, psychological therapy, and certain medications. Everyone responds differently, and your doctor may recommend more than one kind of treatment, though the decision is always yours.

Ketamine For CRPS

Decades of cutting-edge research with patients suffering a variety of conditions including CRPS have uncovered tantalizing clues that many symptoms – physical and psychological – can be managed with medicine that originated as anesthesia in the 1960s. Ketamine, tested on the battlefields of Vietnam to treat wounded U.S. soldiers, has found therapeutic uses beyond a pre-and post-operative setting and is now widely used to treat chronic regional pain syndrome, depression, bipolar, and other illnesses.

Final Thoughts

CRPS often happens after surgery and can be debilitating if its symptoms are left untreated. While your healthcare provider may recommend medicine and therapy, another possibility is a referral for ketamine therapy. This painless procedure is a possible option for your condition, especially if you suffer through symptoms when other treatment fails.

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