Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), also known as Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) can come about in many ways. Usually, it occurs after an identifiable incident like surgery, stroke, or injury (a torn ligament, fracture, etc.). Excessive pain continues afterwards and can be triggered with or without a stimulus. We can’t pinpoint precisely why RSD/CRPS occurs, but it appears to be a result of a malfunctioning sympathetic nervous system (which is a part of the nervous system that control injury sites).

If you’ve just been diagnosed with RSD/CRPS you probably have a lot of questions. Let’s go over a few key things to know about the condition.

First, you should know that RSD symptoms occur in 3 different stages

  • Stage 1. Acute
  • Stage 2. Dystrophic
  • Stage 3. Atrophic

The symptoms may progress rapidly or gradually. Every individual’s condition is unique, so the symptoms that one RSD/CRPS patient experiences may mimic or be completely different to another patient’s symptoms.

During RSD Stage 1: Acute

RSD stage 1 is the best time to catch and treat your symptoms and condition. At this stage, you have a better chance of putting the disease into remission or reversing the symptoms completely. The earlier you receive a diagnosis and start treatment, the better your chances are.

Symptoms include: burning, coldness, flushing, sweating, swelling, increased pain and/or tenderness. This can occur for 3 to 6 months. If left untreated, RSD can develop into Stage 2.

During RSD Stage 2: Dystrophic

RSD stage 2 is when most diagnoses are made. Doctors will try to use x-rays, bone scans and thermograms, but this is best to be done by a knowledgeable doctor with specialized training in RSD/CRPS.

Symptoms include: color changes in skin and continual pain, however swelling and flushing diminish. Patients may also experience short-term memory problems, as well as increased sensitivity and pain to noise or vibrations.  Like stage 1, stage 2 can last for approximately 3 to 6 months.

During RSD Stage 3: Atrophic

Stage 3 can last indefinitely. Typically, if symptoms remain for more than 3 years, the pain level remains fairly constant.

Symptoms include: limited mobility and motion, and thinning of fatty layers and muscle mass. If it continues to go untreated, bones at the affected site may thin as well.

RSD/CRPS has also been linked to forms of fibromyalgia and weather sensitive pain. These are conditions that can trigger sympathetic abnormalities without injury. This is also why these conditions are difficult to diagnose. Physicians with specialized training, awareness about sympathetic pain, and access to diagnostic equipment such as medical thermal imaging are the best chance you have at giving you a proper diagnosis.

RSD/CRPS can be a confusing and debilitating condition. If you or someone you know suspects of having RSD/CRPS, please contact us at 570-534-4949. We can help relieve your pain and get you back on track to a healthier and happier life.

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