There are many subtypes and categories of chronic pain. One of the many categories or diagnoses within chronic pain is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). CRPS, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a syndrome that usually involves chronic pain in a limb that can develop after surgery, injury, heart attack, or stroke. The chronic pain that results from the events described above is much exaggerated or out of proportion compared to the original injury. The underlying cause of CRPS is not yet understood. Some of the major complications from untreated CRPS can include both muscle atrophy and muscle tightening (contracture), in which your fingers or toes are locked in a twisted or flexed position. If you or your physician feels that you might suffer from CRPS, you may undergo tests such as a bone scan, an MRI, x-rays, or sympathetic nervous system tests.
Once diagnosed with CRPS, treatment options include prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as physical therapy. One of the newest ways to treat CRPS is through spinal cord stimulation therapy. Highlighted in the Spring 2011 issue of Pain Pathways magazine (page 27) one woman tells her story about battling CRPS. Once she aggravated her CRPS-related injury through a wheelchair accident, she decided to have a spinal cord stimulator implanted onto her spinal cord. The stimulator helps to regulate nerve impulses sent to the pain receptors of the body in an effort to regulate and decrease her sensations of pain. Post-implantation, the woman, who was previously wheelchair-bound, can now walk, teach kindergarten, and even surf. She is giving thousands of Americans hope for a life post-chronic pain.