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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)?

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  • Dr Stephen Leow

    HealthShare Member

    CRPS is a syndrome in which pain is maintained by a dysfunction of the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system, together with the parasympathetic nervous system. The old name for CRPS was “Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy” which describes the role that the sympathetic nervous system plays. the autonomic nervous system controls “automatic functions” such as blood flow and sweating. If it increases the blood flow to a particular area, that area can become reddened (from the increased blood represent) and swollen (from more fluid, from the blood). Unfortunately, these are also signs of inflammation and CRPS is often mistaken for inflammation. It often presents with an unusually high level of pain following an injury. This pain also continues far longer than the time that the injury takes to heal. The difference between CRPS and inflammation is the effect that CRPS has on hair growth and sweating, which are very subtle signs. It is a complex syndrome, as the name suggests, often missed and difficult to treat.

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