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How is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) diagnosed?

To diagnose complex regional pain disorder, doctors must perform a variety of tests. The aim of these tests is ruling out other conditions and getting a better look at what is going on with your bones and joints. A few of the tests that doctors use to diagnose the condition include x-rays, MRIs, and tests of the skeletal and nervous systems. Doctors will also ask you to discuss your symptoms and history of medical problems when attempting to diagnose your condition.

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is diagnosed primarily through observation of the signs and symptoms. However, since many other conditions have similar symptoms, it can be difficult for doctors to make a firm diagnosis of CRPS early in the course of the disorder when symptoms are few or mild. For example, a simple nerve entrapment can sometimes cause pain severe enough to resemble CRPS. Diagnosis is further complicated by the fact that some people will improve gradually over time without treatment.

Since there is no specific diagnostic test for CRPS, the most important role for testing is to help rule out other conditions. Some clinicians apply a stimulus (such as touch, pinprick, heat, or cold) to the area to see if it causes pain. Doctors may also use triple-phase bone scans to identify changes in the bone and in blood circulation.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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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.