If you have CRPS, also known as complex regional pain syndrome, there’s a good chance you’d never even heard about it before you were diagnosed (or began your own online sleuthing to figure out why you were in so much pain). It’s an elusive disorder that is often misdiagnosed, but the pain is treatable at Integrated Pain Consultants. Our practice is home to Dr. Seth, voted “Top Doc” in the area every year since 2015, as well as esteemed pain management expert Dr. Minesh Zaveri and chiropractor Dr. Weinberg.
The good news is that CRPS is starting to get some media coverage, although it’s still far from a household term. Tony Bellingham, former goldsmith for the British Royal family, was recently diagnosed with CRPS after a major artery and a nerve was severed during a simple medical procedure. Now he says he’s in constant pain and that even a little bump can lead to “excruciating” agony. For anyone with CRPS, these kinds of descriptions sound on-point.
CRPS is, by definition, very rare, although the number of high-profile people diagnosed with it has led to an increased attention on the syndrome. Bellingham reports that even changes in temperature can cause acute, dramatic pain. There’s a reason CRPS has been dubbed the “suicide disease,” as the pain is so intense that it’s truly unbearable for patients. The pain following a bump or temperature swing can last for hours, and doctors liken the feeling to childbirth. Sadly, it’s estimated that 40 percent of CRPS patients die by suicide—but if you have CRPS or suspect it, know that help and pain alleviation is available.
CRPS happens when there’s a neurological malfunction in the central nervous system. For Bellingham, he developed the condition in 2014 when doctors failed to correctly insert a tube in his arm. He had been at the gym boxing with his sons when he had chest pains and was rushed to the hospital for a suspected heart attack. As medics tried to put a catheter in his arm, they opened the brachial artery. It took 10 hours to save his arm, and although Bellingham was awarded a six-figure sum after filing a lawsuit, that does little to soothe the pain associated with CRPS.
CRPS can be caused by a variety of traumas, and not all initial injuries are as severe as Bellingham’s. There have been cases of a simple slip and fall followed by bumping the head that result in CRPS. Recently, an 11-year-old girl was diagnosed with CRPS after what seemed to be a simple sprained ankle. Moana Ruhfass’ parents say that her condition “deteriorated to the point where she was constantly crying and screaming with pain, the slightest breeze could trigger a severe pain reaction in her leg, and Moana was unable to walk, and was confined to a wheelchair.”
There is no cure for CRPS, but there are certainly options to treat, reduce, and in some cases even eliminate the associated pain. However, most of the mainstream “treatments” you’ll see include pain medications like opioids. Although medication management can be a helpful tool for short-term injuries, like recovering from a surgery, they can be very dangerous and addictive for treating a lifelong condition like CRPS.
Alternative pain management options for CRPS may include injections such as corticosteroids, spinal cord stimulation, sympathetic blocks, and chiropractic care. The exact treatment plan is dependent on the patient and should be expected to evolve and change throughout the years. Keep in mind that CRPS is for life, so the goal is to keep the pain managed and the patient comfortable.
CRPS is also often responsive to ARP Wave Therapy, an innovative and non-invasive treatment available at Integrated Pain Consultants. It stimulates the muscles with electrical currents through pads placed on the skin. The ARP Wave machine searches the body to determine the real source of the pain so it can lessen it and help the patient achieve a higher quality of life.
As with any type of pain, trying various treatments is the best way for patients to find what works for them. If you have CRPS or think you do, you’ve already come this far and have found that there are more options for managing your pain than you initially thought. The next step is scheduling a consultation with one of our leading pain management doctors to get on the path to less pain and more living. Call Integrated Pain Consultants today at 480-626-2552 and schedule your evaluation.