RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) or CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome)


This is a complex and, until recently, misunderstood problem usually associated with an accident or a surgery. After the event, the body part involved will continue to display pain and often circulatory problems. The pain can be excruciating.

This chronic, painful and progressive neurological condition affects the skin, bones, joints and muscles and usually develops in an injured arm or leg (for instance, a fracture) or after a surgical procedure. But many instances of RSD involve only a minor injury, such as a sprain. In some cases, no causative event is ever identified.

RSD and CRPS are marked by varying levels of burning pain, swelling, excessive sweating and sensitivity to touch. Pain may begin in one limb or area and then spread to other limbs. In some instances, symptoms ease for a while and then reappear with a new injury.

Two types of RSD/CRPS have been identified:

  • Type 1 — in which no nerve injury is detectable.
  • Type 2 (formerly called causalgia) — in which a nerve injury is present.

The two classifications of RSD/CRPS share the aforementioned signs and symptoms.

Millions of people in the United States may suffer from RSD/CRPS. This chronic pain disorder impacts men, women (usually between the ages of 40 and 60) and children, but it can strike at any age.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS) has stated that up to 5 percent of peripheral nerve injury patients and from 12-21 percent of patients suffering from hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body) develop reflex sympathetic dystrophy as a complication. And the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association of America (RSDSA) estimates that up to 2 percent of bone fracture patients develop the syndrome.