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Treating Complex Regional Pain Syndrome with Electro-Acupuncture

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and Causalgia. CRPS is a central neurovascular disorder that most often develops out of fracture and surgery; less often wound and blunt trauma. It mostly affects the limbs, especially but not limited to distal radius. It affects most commonly female between the age of 50 to 60. Patient diagnosed with CRPS experiences severe and disabling pain that's constant, burning and sharp. Though diagnosis is often delayed or controversial among providers, early recognition and intervention are crucial to reduce severity.

CRPS can develop rather quickly after the trauma. Neural sensitization develops where the central nervous system gets involved and misfire constantly. Any trivial harmless stimulations such as light touch and breeze provoke severe pain. The pain seems disproportionate to the injury. Patients can also develop bizarre sensations like bugs crawling.

Often, we see signs of change in the skin and nails. The skin can go from burning hot to icy cold quickly. The skin can be overly sweaty or dry. The texture of the skin becomes smooth, glossy and nonelastic. Joints get stiff and there is often edema. Nails become blemished and brittle with longitudinal ridges. There can be change in the hair growth pattern as well.

There are a few things that can positively benefit CRPS, and electro-acupuncture is probably one of the best modalities. We apply electro acupuncture to the spinal columns that affect the dermatome of the limbs. Patients often report having complete reduction of pain for a day or two after the treatment. Overtime, pain becomes less and less and the effect of acupuncture lasts longer and longer. Due to the severity and bizarre nature of the CRPS, ongoing treatments are recommended. Eventually patients will be able to self manage the pain and only need treatments when there is a major flareup.

Other recommended modalities include meditation, qi gong, tai chi, and pain psychologist.

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