Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Treated at Mercy Medical Center


Complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or RSD, is a condition in which nerve damage or injury results in a burning sensation, swelling, and pain in one or both of your arms and legs.

At The Center for Interventional Pain Medicine at Mercy, our doctors treat patients with pain caused by reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), or complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Our experienced pain medicine specialists offer minimally invasive pain relief techniques enabling you to rely less on medication.

About the Condition

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), also called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), is a rare disorder of the nervous system that is characterized by chronic, severe pain. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy occurs when the nervous system becomes overactive and nerves send frequent or constant pain signals to the brain. It most commonly affects the arms and legs, but also can affect other extremities.

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy typically develops after an injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack. The cause of complex regional pain syndrome isn't clearly understood.

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Symptoms & Diagnostic Process

Symptoms of reflex sympathetic dystrophy (or complex regional pain syndrome) typically affect the arms and legs and may include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Swelling, burning and throbbing
  • Changes in skin temperature, color and texture
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Sensitivity to touch

Pain management specialists begin diagnoses of reflex sympathetic dystrophy by reviewing your medical history and performing a physical exam. Tests may also be conducted to confirm diagnosis, including:

  • X-rays
  • MRI – magnetic resonance imaging
  • Bone scan
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Treatment Options

Early diagnosis and treatment of reflex sympathetic dystrophy or complex regional pain syndrome improves the chances of successful treatment. If not treated stiffness and loss of use of the affected limb may develop. Treatment focuses on pain relief and can include sympathetic nerve blocks and spinal cord stimulation.

Options for treating reflex sympathetic dystrophy or complex regional pain syndrome may include: