Therapies and Treatments for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

What is CRPS

Complex regional pain syndrome, formerly RSD, is a rare but extremely complex and serious pain condition. While it might only affect about 200,000 people in the United States, those who suffer from it experience excruciating pain and often debilitating side effects. There is no cure yet, but there are multiple treatment options offering varying degrees of relief. CRPS can cause anxiety and depression and is often difficult to diagnose, leading to increased frustration and anxiety. Emerging treatments and resources are receiving much more support to create awareness for complex regional pain syndrome.


Symptoms of CRPS

Symptoms of CRPS are many and varied and may mirror other conditions, making it a challenge to diagnose quickly. According to Mayo Clinic, patients with CRPS may experience:

  • Sensations of burning in the affected area
  • Chronic pain increasing in severity
  • Ultra sensitivity of the skin, even with just the lightest touch.
  • Skin temperature changes in the affected area, feeling warmer or cooler.
  • Skin appearance transitioning to purple or red; blotches or paleness may also occur.
  • Swelling, either chronic or episodic
  • Skin becoming sweaty, glossy or thin.
  • Decreased range of motion, which can lead to immobility
  • Rapid growth or decline in growth of hair and nails
  • Migrating pain


Experts believe that CRPS affects a person who has either injured themselves or who has had surgery or a medical procedure on the affected area, which is usually an arm, leg, hand, or foot.


Treatments for CRPS

With a wide variety of treatments available, one or a combination can alleviate symptoms and make a normal life possible until a cure for CRPS is found. Different treatments work for different people, and remaining open to a new treatment is essential.

Most medical professionals recommend that treatment begin soon after the initial injury/surgery/procedure occurs. The sooner treatment starts, the better the results. As Cleveland Clinic outlines, the goal of treatment is to decrease pain, restore function to the affected area and improve quality of life.


Rehab and Physical Therapy for CRPS


Physical therapy and rehabilitation are among the most popular and important treatments for patients with CRPS. The affected area is kept moving to improve blood flow, which is key to recovery.


Desensitization Treatment for CRPS


Desensitization treatments include exposing the affected area to materials of various textures and weights, and placing limbs in varying temperatures of water. Exposing the affected region of the body to these different sensations can affect how the brain perceives the feeling, and can improve its response to pain.


Psychotherapy for CRPS


Usually prescribed hand-in-hand with another treatment, psychotherapy can help with the secondary problems that occur with CRPS such as depression, anxiety and in some cases PTSD.


Medication for CRPS


On the spectrum of medication treatment, recommendations may range from OTC pain relievers to pain management with prescription drugs. This is a serious topic to discuss with your medical professional since some medication can lead to addiction and other side effects. For severe cases, spinal fluid drug pumps may be placed under the skin, delivering pain medication directly to the affected area.


Stimulation Therapy for CRPS


There are various stimulation therapies available for the treatment of CRPS. The spinal cord can be stimulated with electrodes. Transcranial magnetic stimulation, TMS, is non-invasive but requires multiple sessions for full benefit. Repetitive treatments are necessary for many stimulation therapies and require commitment from the patient.

BioWave® is a non-surgical peripheral nerve stimulation technology that delivers clinically-proven pain relief and can be used to treat pain associated with CRPS. BioWave® allows the patient to treat themselves at home with BioWaveGO® and BioWaveHOME®, or under the supervision of their medical professional with BioWavePENS®. Learn more about our options for severe pain treatment.

Complex regional pain syndrome is a challenging condition for patients. The success in treating CRPS emanates from the personalized combination of therapies available. If you’re suffering from CRPS, contact our patient team today to find out if BioWave® may be able to help.