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What causes complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)?

People experience two types of complex regional pain syndrome that, while they have the same symptoms, have different causes. People with type 1 complex regional pain syndrome develop the condition after they experience an injury that doesn't cause nerve damage. People with type 2 complex regional pain syndrome experience symptoms after an injury that does cause nerve damage. Although people have both kinds of complex regional pain syndrome after they've encountered an injury, doctors aren't exactly sure what causes the ongoing pain for some.

Akash Bajaj, MD
Anesthesiology

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition in which high levels of nerve impulses are sent to an affected site. CRPS most likely does not have a single cause, but rather results from multiple causes that produce similar symptoms. Some studies suggest that pain receptors in the affected part of the body become responsive to catecholamines, a group of nervous system messengers. In cases of injury-related CRPS, the syndrome may be caused by a triggering of the immune response, which may lead to the inflammatory symptoms of redness, warmth, and swelling in the affected area. For this reason, it is believed that CRPS may represent a disruption of the healing process.

Philip Getson
Pain Medicine

There is no true answer to this question. Some think that there is a gene that predisposes individuals to the problem. Others think it's hormonally based. What we do know is that most times CRPS is caused by a traumatic event, although the trauma may be as minimal as a needle stick. There seems to be a family link as multiple members of the same family can be afflicted. A lengthy dialogue about this disorder will soon be posted on this site, as I have submitted same for review.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.