Pain Management

Complex Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome (formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy or RSD) is a chronic pain condition usually affecting the hand or foot. CRPS is often initiated by some kind of trauma. The trauma does not have to be major.

The pain associated with CRPS is usually present all the time and out of proportion to the original injury. It often feels like a burning sensation and the skin is often very sensitive to touch and to temperature changes. Even light touch is often painful. There may be swelling at times, often in the early stages of the syndrome. You may notice that your nails grow at differentiates and that your skin looks different on the hand or foot that is hurting. The affected area also may be a different temperature from the rest of your body.

How Can We Help?

There are many options that the specialists at the Emory Pain Center offer for the treatment of CRPS of the upper or lower extremity. Physical therapy is very important, not only to relieve pain but to preserve function and mobility. We work closely with physical therapists to maximize your relief and provide comprehensive treatment. Sympathetic blocks, particularly when performed early in the course of the pain, can be very helpful to reduce pain and assist in being able to participate in physical therapy.

How Do You Treat Pain From CRPS?

  • Non-narcotic analgesic medications, particularly anti-seizure and certain types of antidepressant medications that help to reduce the burning, throbbing pain
  • Physical therapy
    • Diagnostic and therapeutic sympathetic blocks
    • Stellate ganglion blocks for the face, arm, and hand
  • Lumbar sympathetic blocks for the leg and foot
  • Spinal cord stimulation