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From Source to Spread: Investigating the Factors and Mechanisms Involved in the Expansion of CRPS
Living with chronic pain is an experience that tests one's strength and resilience. It has become all too real for those afflicted by complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), an incurable debilitating condition affecting the limbs that causes persistent pain and intense discomfort.
Signs and Symptoms of CRPS
Common CRPS symptoms* include
- Long-term chronic burning or throbbing pain that spreads from one arm, leg, hand, or foot; sensitivity to touch or cold; swelling in the painful area; fluctuating body temperatures that alternate between sweaty and cool states
- Changes in skin color range from deep mottled red to bluish purple, or pale white; changes in texture become tender, thin, mottled, glossy and shiny in affected areas; hair and nail growth change accordingly, along with joint stiffness, swelling, damage as well as muscle spasms, tremors and weakness (atrophy).
- Impaired mobility, muscle atrophy and contraction hindering the affected limb’s movement
- Initial symptoms may range in severity, typically including pain, swelling, redness, temperature changes, and hypersensitivity (especially to cold and touch).
Over time, an affected limb may become cold and pale and experience skin and nail changes as well as muscle spasms or tightening; once these changes occur, they often cannot be reversed. CRPS may spread beyond its source to affect other body parts, such as an opposing limb.
CRPS severity and presentation can differ widely depending on an individual, making proper medical evaluation and diagnosis essential to effective treatment and management.
The Cause of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
The exact cause of CRPS remains unknown, though its cause is likely connected with injury or dysfunction in peripheral nerves and the central nervous system. Typically, it arises following trauma or injury.
CRPS can be divided into two types, both with similar symptoms but different causes:
Type 1**: Also called (reflex sympathetic dystrophy), develops after illness or injury that does not directly harm nerves in an affected limb. An estimated 90% of individuals suffering from chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS) fall under this category.
Type 2: also called causalgia, shares symptoms similar to type 1 but results from nerve injury.
CRPS often results from forceful injuries to either arm or leg, such as crushing injuries and fractures. Other significant and minor traumas like surgery, heart attacks, infections, or sprained ankles may also trigger its development.
Why these injuries trigger, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is still unknown, though not every victim who experiences such damage develops CRPS. It may be related to interactions between central and peripheral nervous systems that differ from typical responses, along with different inflammatory reactions contributing to its development.
Why Does CRPS Spread to Other Body Parts, such as limbs?
One of the more puzzling aspects of chronic regional pain syndrome*** (CRPS) is its capacity to spread beyond its initial site of injury, even after treatment has ended. Although its exact mechanisms remain unknown, various factors could play a part in its progression.
At first, changes to the CNS may play a role. Sensitization caused by constant pain can cause it to be amplified across other regions causing widespread symptoms.
Peripheral Nervous System Contributes to the Spread of CRPS Nerves outside the brain and spinal cord can also contribute to its spread, with damaged or malfunctioning nerves contributing to the abnormal transmission of pain signals that travel along nerve pathways to other body parts, further spreading CRPS
How Does CRPS Spread?
CRPS can spread through various mechanisms****, further complicating its course. One such mechanism is mirror-image pain - where an individual develops symptoms of CRPS in another limb on the opposite side from where their first experience occurred.
If, for example, right arm pain first manifested itself initially on the right arm only later affected the left arm as well, this mirror-image phenomenon may involve changes to how pain perception works in the brain.
CRPS may spread through an additional means known as the spontaneous spread. Without an apparent trigger or injury, symptoms associated with CRPS can suddenly and unpredictably extend into adjacent body parts and worsen the suffering experienced by those already living with CRPS. This sudden spread may exacerbate suffering further and compound existing pain levels experienced by sufferers of the disorder.
My Theory – Deductive Reasoning From a First Hand Account – Hear Me Out
From a first-hand account of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, I believe the spread has something to do with an impaired central nervous system. Since it works with the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral system I believe the brain is tricked into believing somehow that the healthy limbs and other organs are not indeed healthy. It is my theory that a lot of it has to do with the brain. The central nervous system works in conjunction with the brain in temperature, pain, sending and receiving signals, and that is how I have came to that deductive reasoning. Initially my son began to experience spreading to the opposite healthy limb between three to four months of diagnosis. As we began to heal his central nervous system, the spreading came to a halt altogether. Both limbs are healthy and functioning as they should be.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) can be a challenging journey that tests one's strength and resilience. This perplexing condition, marked by persistent and intense limb pain, remains mysterious in many respects. As we explore why it occurs, we reveal an intricate relationship between central and peripheral nervous systems, injury/trauma, pain perception changes, and other contributing factors.
Living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome may be challenging, yet advancements in medical knowledge and treatments offer hope to those affected. We aim to understand this complex condition better while taking an integrative approach to its management to alleviate suffering and enhance the lives affected by it. If you still need any help regarding CRPS, don’t hesitate to contact us.