Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

by Terry Bryant

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is one of the most frustrating conditions a person could go through, and it’s almost always the result of an injury. Doctors and researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes the disease, and the best explanation is that an injury provokes something akin to an allergic reaction, in that the body reacts to trauma in unpredictable and highly damaging ways. It is a systemic condition, so it can affect any organ or part of the body, though there are some notable characteristics of the disease.

Severe swelling, chronic pain, loss of limb use and reduced blood flow are common signs of complex regional pain syndrome. Joint stiffness, muscle spasms, loss of bone mass, and agonizing reactions to gentle stimuli like water or wind are also frequently noted.

The condition is extremely difficult to treat, especially if treatment is not started within a few months of onset. The brain quickly adapts to the body’s new state, and it can be difficult to reverse the agony these victims go through if the brain is not retrained quickly. As such, treatment is full-spectrum and involves physical and psychological therapy, medications, and possibly even extensive surgery. Unfortunately, there is little research supporting any one form of treatment, so attacking the disease is an expensive and exhausting experience.

And many instances of the condition are the result of accidents – often vehicle crashes – that are completely preventable with safe driving. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is also common with workplace injuries and medical malpractice.