Through the years, I’ve represented a number of personal injury victims who suffered Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). This condition is also known as reflex sympathy dystrophy (RSD). You may have never even heard of it. Yet, CRPS is a devastating condition for patients. So, when I recently read the account of a person suffering from CRPS it sounded familiar. It sounded like the stories of pain my past clients have tearfully related. How does the patient’s story begin? How does the patient describe her pain?
It’s 4 a.m., and once again I’m unable to sleep.
. . .
I’m on fire.
. . .
Intense, unrelenting burning pain . .
. . .
Have you ever needed a root canal? Remember the pain and sensitivity? How about the continuous throbbing or basic things like talking or hot or cold causing searing pain? What about the desperation of just wanting the pain to end? Now picture all that and then being lit on fire. Imagine the pain, sensitivity, and burning all over your entire body, every minute of the day. That is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS/RSD).
Earlier this year, I tried a case involving a truck driver who now suffers CRPS after a serious accident. I have a little pre-injury background with this client. I went to school with him. So, I can honestly tell you he was one of the hardest working people I know. His CRPS has robbed him of the ability to work and left him suffering debilitating pain.
What is CRPS? While rare, CRPS is a type of chronic pain caused by nerve damage. It generally affects a specific arm or leg area after an injury. The client I mentioned in the prior paragraph developed CRPS in his dominant arm after a serious fall and failed shoulder surgery. I’ve seen other clients over the years also develop CRPS so badly in an arm or leg that they cannot even function in the affected area. If you simply brush up against the injured arm or leg, it would cause an onset of incapacitating pain. Many of these clients “guard” their injured arm or leg so it will not be touched or bumped.
What are some common symptoms of CRPS? Here are a few CRPS symptoms which affect the injured body area:
- Intense burning pain
- Hypersensitivity and/or allodynia
- Unusual temperature changes
- Changes in skin appearance – like a “waxy” appearance
Yes, in some cases of CRPS you can actually see the difference between the patient’s injured and non-injured areas. The area impacted by CRPS may appear shiny, swollen or waxy. It may even feel colder. A doctor who recently testified in one of my cases described actually observing coldness, blueness in color, swelling, edema and hair loss upon examining a client with CRPS. The doctor then described how CRPS is a “neuropathic pain response” to an injury. It affects the patient’s sympathetic nervous system that controls heat, temperature, numbness and other sensations in the affected area. The patient typically feels a burning, stinging and sharp pain.
CRPS is often overlooked or misunderstood by other medical professionals. Why? The injury is rare. And, the pain may appear greater than expected for the injury. Because of these factors, insurance companies often dispute such claims.
How do you medically treat CRPS? Many CRPS patients need specialized medical pain management for their condition. Some also need help to deal with the depression or anxiety that comes with suffering constant pain and disability. I’ve not seen any “silver bullet” cure for CRPS. Rather, it is a task of managing or lessening the pain so the patient can function better. If you suffer CRPS, seek a board certified pain management specialist who understands and treats your condition. If you have a legal claim as a result of the accident that caused your CRPS, seek an attorney experienced in dealing with medical specialists.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we represent injured clients across Alabama. We specialize in personal injury cases so we can devote all our time and resources to best serving our injured clients. If you have questions, give us a call. We are happy to answer questions.