Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition characterized by debilitating, unrelenting pain, usually to an arm, hand, leg or foot. CRPS can develop after a traumatic injury; it can also occur after surgery, stroke or a heart attack. CRPS is one of the more difficult to diagnose chronic pain conditions, because the intense pain sufferers feel is much greater than would be expected from the injury that brought it on.
If you have been diagnosed with CRPS, and you believe your condition was caused by an injury that occurred due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.
Types of CRPS/RSD
CRPS affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States per year. The cause of this condition is not yet fully understood, but may involve excessive inflammation or dysfunction of the nervous system. There are two main types of CRPS with similar signs and symptoms, but different triggering events:
- Type 1 CRPS, also called reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), is the most common form; it occurs after an illness or injury that did not result in nerve damage.
- Type 2 follows a confirmed nerve injury; this was once known as causalgia.
CRPS typically occurs after a forceful trauma to an arm or a leg that affects the central nervous system. Injuries such as a fracture, amputation, a crush injury or even a severe sprain may bring on CRPS. Other traumas such as surgery, heart attacks, or even infections have been known to lead to CRPS.
Symptoms of CRPS/RSD
People with CRPS/RSD may experience:
- Continuous burning or throbbing pain, in an arm, leg, hand or foot
- Joint stiffness or swelling in the same area
- Tenderness, tingling, or sensitivity in the affected area
- Skin color change: this can range from white and blotchy to red or blue
- Skin temperature changes: sweating or extreme coldness
- Skin texture change: skin in the affected area may be thin or shiny
- Muscle spasms, rhythmic muscle contractions, tremors, muscle weakness and loss (atrophy)
- Decreased ability to move the affected body part
- Hair and nail growth changes
- Headaches and depression
While symptoms may vary, pain, swelling, redness, noticeable changes in temperature and hypersensitivity (particularly to cold and touch) are typically present first. Treatment is likely to be most effective when started at this point.
In some people, CRPS symptoms simply stop after a short time. In others, symptoms may persist for months or years, or may spread from the initial source to another place in the body, such as the other limb.
If CRPS is not treated soon enough, the disease may progress to more disabling and irreversible symptoms, including:
- Muscle weakness or deterioration (atrophy) may occur if sufferers avoid or are unable to move limbs due to stiffness or pain.
- Muscle spasms and muscle tightening (contracture) can lead to a condition in which hands, fingers, feet and toes tighten into a permanently rigid position.
What to Do If I Think I Have CRPS
If you are experiencing persistent, excruciating pain in a leg, arm, hand or foot, and touching or moving that body part is unbearable, talk to your physician right away to receive a diagnosis and early treatment plan.
While no single test can conclusively identify CRPS, your doctor may want to perform the following tests:
- A bone scan, or nuclear imaging test to diagnose inflammation, fractures, infections or cancers in the bone. A tiny amount of a radioactive substance (a “tracer”) is injected into a vein.
- Autonomic Nervous System testing can measure sympathetic nervous system output such as heart rate, glucose release, metabolism and muscular strength. Uneven results might indicate CRPS.
- X-rays may reveal mineral loss in the bones.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may show changes in body tissue.
How Do I Know If I Have a Claim for Compensation?
Whether or not you are able to receive compensation for CRPS will depend on the event that instigated your condition. For instance:
- Was your CRPS brought on by an injury that was caused by another person, such as a car accident or a fall?
- Was your CRPS brought on by an injury that could result in a lawsuit, such as a defective product or a dangerous condition on the road, at work, or in a public place?
- Was your CRPS brought on by an injury that, by itself, could be considered medical malpractice, such as a surgical error or poor follow-up aftercare?
- Was the CRPS caused by a surgical procedure that turned out to be unnecessary?
If you can answer yes to any of the above questions, you may want to talk to a law firm with qualified CRPS attorneys like the personal injury attorneys at TorkLaw. Your lawyer will want a specialist to review your medical records before proceeding to ensure that a lawsuit makes sense. For instance, CRPS after surgery is not necessarily a sign of malpractice by itself. However, if you do have a case, your compensation could be significant, and include damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
CRPS is a chronic condition, and is not life-threatening, but it can last for years or even be lifelong. While CRPS can’t be cured, and it does negatively impact the quality of life, there are treatments that can help.
- Heat therapy. Applying heat may offer relief of swelling and discomfort on skin that feels cool.
- Pain relievers. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers may ease mild pain and inflammation.
- Topical analgesics. Various topical treatments are available that may reduce hypersensitivity, such as OTC capsaicin or lidocaine cream or patches.
Types of therapy
- Physical therapy for the affected limbs may decrease pain, and improve strength and range of motion.
- Mirror therapy uses a mirror to “trick” the brain: sitting before a mirror, the patient moves the healthy limb, and the brain perceives it as the CRPS-affected. This type of therapy has helped improve function and reduce pain for CRPS patients.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or spinal cord stimulation involves applying electrical impulses to nerve endings or along the spinal cord, and has been shown to reduce chronic pain.
- Biofeedback helps patients learn to control bodily processes like muscle tension, which can relax the body and relieve pain.
- Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese form of medicine involving inserting very thin needles in specific points on the body to relieve pain.
- Muscle relaxants reduce tension and relieve muscle discomfort.
- Corticosteroids may reduce inflammation and improve mobility.
- Nerve block, or numbing medication injected near a nerve.
- Intrathecal drug pumps into the spinal cord fluid.
- Antidepressants and anticonvulsants can be used to treat pain from nerve damage.
- Antihypertensive drugs decrease blood pressure.
- Bone-loss medications.
- Narcotics or sedatives may induce calm and dull the senses, but will not improve function.
- Anesthetics injected into the affected nerves, or taken intravenously in low doses, may relieve pain, but will not improve function.
Scientists supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke are studying the body’s immune system reaction to nerve cells following injury. The goal is to identify objectives for new drug therapies that could limit the symptoms to the parts of the body affected by CRPS, and improve recovery.
Living with chronic pain is hard. Because of the nature of CRPS, those who have this condition are often doubly burdened because friends, family, and sometimes even their medical providers don’t understand or even believe how much pain they are in. It’s important to learn as much as you can, and to share information about CRPS from reliable sources to help the people in your life understand what you’re going through.
Seeing a therapist or psychologist may help you learn additional coping skills like meditation or relaxation. A therapist can also help you to express your feelings and feel heard. Joining a support group is another option. This website can help with information and referrals: https://rsds.org/
If You Need a CRPS Lawyer
If your CRPS was brought on by an injury that was caused by another person or entity, such as a car accident, a defective product or dangerous condition, or by medical malpractice, such as an unnecessary surgery, you may be entitled to significant compensation. If that is the case, you need a qualified CRPS attorney.
Contact the personal injury attorneys at TorkLaw and we will investigate your situation fully. If you have a valid case, we will obtain the highest amount of compensation available. Call us today: 888.845.9696.