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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1


  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS-1) is a painful condition that affects the arms, legs, hands, or feet. It is a chronic (long-lasting) condition. It may also be called reflex sympathetic dystrophy or algodystrophy. CRPS-1 almost always occurs after an injury to a limb. How bad the injury was does not affect how likely you are to get CRPS-1. The main symptom of CRPS-1 is pain that is stronger than the injury would seem to cause. Also, the pain continues after the initial injury heals. Other symptoms you may have in the injured limb include abnormal swelling, sweating, and changes in skin temperature. You may also have trouble moving the limb and doing your normal daily activities.
  • To diagnose CRPS-1, your caregiver will examine you and take a health history. You may also need x-rays, a bone scan, or magnetic resonance imaging. Treatment depends on your symptoms. It may include medicines, physical therapy, or nerve blocks. Some people will recover completely from CRPS-1 over time. Early treatment for CRPS-1 can help reduce your symptoms and help prevent damage to the injured limb. Treatment can improve the movement of your limb and decrease your pain. With treatment, you may be able to return to your normal daily activities, such as work or sports.


  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
  • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease inflammation.
  • Antidepressants: These medicines are used to treat depression (deep sadness). They may also help decrease your pain.
  • Anti-seizure medicines: These are used to treat seizures. They can also help relieve pain from CRPS-1.
  • Biophosphonates and calcitonin: These medicines help prevent bone damage. This can help relieve pain.
  • Calcium channel blockers: These medicines may be given to help improve blood flow in your injured limb.

Follow-up visit information:

You will likely have many follow-up visits so your caregiver can see how you are doing. During these visits, you may have more tests done to check your condition. Tell your caregiver how you are feeling and if treatment is working. You may want to write down how often you are having pain and how severe it is. This can help you keep track of your symptoms so you can tell your caregiver at your follow-up visits. Keep all appointments. Write down any questions you may have beforehand. This way you will remember to ask these questions during your visit.


Therapy should be started right after you are diagnosed with CRPS-1. Therapy can decrease pain and improve movement. As a result, it can help reduce or prevent loss of limb function. The main types of therapy are:

  • Physical therapy: You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.
  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy (OT) uses work, self-care, and play activities to help you function with an injury. An occupational therapist can help you learn to use your injured limb during your daily life. You and your therapist will plan a therapy program that is right for you.

Alternative treatments:

Ask your caregiver for more information about other treatments that may help treat problems related to CRPS-1. These treatments may include:

  • Relaxation therapy: This technique teaches you how to calm your body and mind. The goal is to feel less physical (body) stress and emotional (mind) stress. Relaxation therapy may help you cope with your pain.
  • Biofeedback: This treatment is a special way to control how your body reacts to pain. During biofeedback, electrodes (wires) are placed on different parts of your body, such as your chest. The electrodes are attached to a TV-type monitor that gives a paper tracing of your heart beating. The electrodes are used to monitor your body responses. You will learn how to control body changes, such as slowing your heart rate when you have pain.
  • Acupuncture: Caregivers insert very thin needles just under your skin. This is believed to help certain fluids flow better in your body. Acupuncture treatment may decrease pain and improve healing. Always see a caregiver for this treatment. Do not try to give this treatment to yourself.

Helping make your treatment successful:

The following may help decrease your symptoms so you can better manage your CRPS-1:

  • Start treatment as early as possible: This can help reduce symptoms such as pain. It can also help prevent loss of function in your injured limb.
  • Follow your treatment plan: Do as your caregivers tell you, and keep all follow-up visits. Although it may take weeks for treatment to start working, continue your treatment plan. If pain is a problem during PT, talk to your caregiver about taking pain medicines before doing PT. Treatment can help relieve your pain and other symptoms.
  • Get help if you are having trouble coping with your condition: If you are feeling anxious (nervous or worried) or depressed, talk to your caregiver. Treatment is available to help you feel better. Treatment may include talk therapy or medicine.


  • You have new symptoms or your symptoms, such as swelling, sweating, or decreased limb movement are worse than before.
  • You have increasing pain that cannot be controlled with medicine.
  • You have new or increased dizziness or nausea.
  • You have a fever.
  • You feel you cannot cope with your condition.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, treatment, or care.


  • You have had a procedure or surgery and your incision is swollen, red, or has pus coming from it.
  • You have had a procedure or surgery and your wound is bleeding and will not stop.
  • Your heart is beating faster than normal.
  • You have a fever, headache, vomiting, and a stiff neck.
  • You cannot control when you urinate or have bowel movements.
  • You feel depressed and have thoughts of harming yourself.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1 (Aftercare Instructions)

Associated drugs

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