Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a chronic pain condition, also previously known as reflect sympathetic dystrophy. As the name suggests, this condition is hallmarked by intense pain, swelling, discoloration and stiffness in the skin. While these symptoms can appear in different limbs in the body, the hands are most commonly impacted.


While this condition can be painful and disruptive to everyday life, the team here at Principal Spine can help you manage your pain so you can get back to life as normal.

Causes of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

So, what exactly causes this chronic pain condition? In most cases, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome typically occurs after an injury or trauma to a specific limb. This condition is well known for the burning “pins and needles” pain throughout the limb or area that has been affected. It most commonly happens after sprains, strains, bruises, fractures and other soft tissue injuries.


Other serious diseases including shingles, breast cancer, stroke and different medical procedures can actually cause complex regional pain syndrome

Closeup young woman sitting on sofa holds her wrist. hand injury, feeling pain. Health care and medical concept.
1. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome 2

Symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Typically, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome causes a group of symptoms all in one extremity, including:


  • Pain
  • Burning sensation
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Sweating
  • Changes in the skin
  • Skin discoloration


There are three different stages of this pain syndrome, including acute, dystrophic and atrophic.


  • Acute: Symptoms include burning, sweating, flushing, swelling and pain and tenderness in an extremity. This typically occurs in a three-to-six-month time frame.
  • Dystrophic: Symptoms include early skin changes, persistent pain and diminished welling and flushing. This typically occurs in a three-to-six-month time frame.
  • Atrophic: Symptoms include a loss of function and motion in the impacted limb and thinning of the fat layers under the skin. This stage can last indefinitely.


Like many chronic pain conditions, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome can often look different for different individuals.

Treating Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome is diagnosed after looking at an individual’s medical history and symptoms. Typically, a doctor will perform a physical examination and ay to x-rays, MRI or other tests to confirm their diagnosis. The earlier you can get to a doctor the better your results will be, and you can help prevent this condition from getting worse.


Common treatments include rehabilitation, medications for pain and inflammation, injections, nerve blocks and other pain management strategies.  The appropriate treatment depends on the individual and the severity of their symptoms.

We are Accepting New Patients

If you are struggling with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and are looking for relief, come visit the experts at Principal Spine. Our pain management doctors are accepting new patients to schedule and appointment, please call our Carrollton clinic at (972) 316-7270 or our Denton clinic at (940) 222-8943.