Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: A Comprehensive Review
24 June 2021
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition often involving hyperalgesia and allodynia of the extremities. CRPS is divided into CRPS-I and CRPS-II. Type I occurs when there is no confirmed nerve injury. Type II is when there is known associated nerve injury. Female gender is a risk factor for developing CRPS. Other risk factors include fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. Unfortunately, the pathogenesis of CRPS is not yet clarified. Some studies have demonstrated different potential pathways. Neuropathic inflammation, specifically activation of peripheral nociceptors of C-fibers, has been shown to play a critical role in developing CRPS. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is involved. Depending on whether it is acute or chronic CRPS, norepinephrine levels are either decreased or increased, respectively. Some studies have suggested the importance of genetics in developing CRPS. More consideration is being given to the role of psychological factors. Some association between a history of depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the diagnosis of CRPS has been demonstrated. Treatment modalities available range from physical therapy, pharmacotherapy, and interventional techniques. Physical and occupational therapies include mirror therapy and graded motor imagery. Medical management with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) has not shown significant improvement. There have been supporting findings in the use of short-course steroids, bisphosphonates, gabapentin, and ketamine. Antioxidant treatment has also shown some promise. Other pharmacotherapies include low-dose naltrexone and Botulinum toxin A (BTX-A). Sympathetic blocks are routinely used, even if their short- and long-term effects are not clear. Finally, spinal cord stimulation (SCS) has been used for decades. In conclusion, CRPS is a multifactorial condition that still requires further studying to better understand its pathogenesis, epidemiology, genetic involvement, psychological implications, and treatment options. Future studies are warranted to better understand this syndrome. This will provide an opportunity for better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of CRPS.
Keywords: Algoneurodystrophy; Causalgia; Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS); Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD); Sudeck atrophy.