The History of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

The History of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

The First Historical Record of CRPS

The National Library of Medicine points out in an online article: The earliest dated record of CRPS is recorded in 1812, by Denmark a British Surgeon that worked at the Royal Navy Hospital in the Hampshire. The patient was a soldier, with an injury due to a gunshot wound. The injury was through the upper arm, in the supracondylar, region of humerus and occurred during the siege of Badajoz. The wound healed quickly, but the pain persisted. Doctor Denmark reported on his case, following his discharge “I always found him with a forearm bent and in supine position and supported by the firm grasp of the other hand.  The pain was of a ‘burning’ nature, and so violent as to cause a continual perspiration from his face.”

Denmark linked and found a correlation between the soldier’s symptoms and the radial nerve.

An excerpt from Brain & Life Magazine, depicting another historical record of CRPS, dating back between 1864-1917. CRPS used to be known as algodystrophy and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.

One of the earliest written descriptions of CRPS comes from S. Weir Mitchell, a Civil War doctor who was struck by the severe, persistent pain experienced by some soldiers even after their wounds healed—pain that occurred with just the lightest touch. "He is ... nervous and hysterical to such a degree that his relatives suppose him to be partially insane," Dr. Mitchell wrote of a young man who had been shot at Gettysburg. "It is difficult even to examine him properly on account of his timidity, and his whole appearance exhibits the effects of pain ... and want of rest." – Debra Gordon (MS), Brain & Life Magazine


Iolascon, G., de Sire, A., Moretti, A., & Gimigliano, F. (2015). Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) type I: Historical perspective and critical issues. Clinical cases in mineral and bone metabolism : the official journal of the Italian Society of Osteoporosis, Mineral Metabolism, and Skeletal Diseases.

The chronic pain of CRPS is more than a feeling. Brain and Life Magazine - Trusted by Neurologists. (n.d.).



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