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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

What Is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

Complex regional pain syndrome is a condition that affects the arms and legs. It was previously called reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). It can cause swelling, temperature changes, and aching and burning in the limbs.

It is classified into either type 1 or type 2.

  • Type 1 develops after an illness or injury that did not directly affect a limb.
  • Type 2 is related to a nerve injury on the affected arm or leg.

Complex regional pain syndrome can be caused by:

  • Amputation – The removal of all or part of a limb
  • Heart attack – A blood flow blockage in the heart
  • Infections – When the body must fight off a bacterial or viral infection
  • Injury or trauma – Such as a fall, car accident or sports injury
  • Surgery – Can sometimes cause nerve damage

The exact cause is unknown, but it is suspected to be caused by inflammation and a dysfunctional response from the nervous system.


The symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome can include:

  • Burning, throbbing and ongoing pain
  • Changes to hair or nail growth in the affected area
  • Changes to the skin, including redness, feeling hot or cold to the touch, sweating, shininess, thinness and splotches
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch or cold
  • Joint swelling or stiffness

If you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor. The sooner you are treated for complex regional pain syndrome, the more likely your treatment will be successful.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for complex regional pain syndrome include:

  • Behavioral health therapy – Talk therapy can help you develop mental and emotional coping skills when dealing with pain.
  • Medication management – Your doctor may recommend medication, such as intrathecal drug delivery (pumps), over-the-counter pain relievers, topical ointments, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, anti-epileptics, and weak or strong opioid medications to treat your pain.
  • Nerve blocks – An injection of medication can block nerve signals and decrease pain. We offer facial nerve blocks, peripheral nerve blocks and sympathetic nerve blocks.
  • Physical therapy – Exercises can help strengthen and support your muscles and joints.
  • Stimulation therapies – Procedures can stimulate the nerves and regulate their signals to reduce pain. We offer dorsal root ganglion stimulation, peripheral nerve stimulation and spinal cord stimulation.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat complex regional pain syndrome.