Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy often feels like an intense burning pain.

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is also referred to as “complex regional pain syndrome.” Although why it occurs is not completely understood, there are theories as to why Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy occurs. Some of these theories include irritation and abnormal excitation of nervous tissues. It appears that the peripheral nerves, the brain and the involuntary nervous system are involved in the development of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. Individuals suffering from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy often experience intense burning pain, inflammation and tenderness of the extremity, and flushing, sweaty skin.

Events Which May Trigger Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

The events researchers believe can trigger Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy include the following:

  • Injury
  • Surgical procedures
  • Shingles
  • Breast cancer
  • Problems with your shoulder
  • Entrapment-type nerve irritations, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Brain diseases, such as stroke
  • Degenerative arthritis of the neck
  • Heart disease
  • Use of barbiturates
  • Drugs for tuberculosis

Symptoms of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy symptoms can come on gradually or rapidly, and involves both sides of the body in about half of all those with the conditions. The stages associated with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy include:

  • Acute Phase - In the acute phase—which typically lasts from three to six months—the patient can experience tenderness, flushing, burning, sweating, inflammation and pain, and patchy bone thinning can sometimes be seen in this phase on an x-ray.
  • Dystrophic Phase - The next phase is known as the dystrophic phase, and also typically lasts from three to six months. During this phase, the skin may change, becoming thickened and shiny, and while the inflammation and flushing may diminish, the pain will likely increase.
  • Atrophic Stage - In the final stage, known as the Atrophic stage, the patient can experience loss of function, loss of motion, and contracture (flexed scarring). An x-ray taken during this phase may show significant osteoporosis, and the atrophic phase can be long-standing.

Diagnosing Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

A patient’s reporting of the above symptoms is the most likely manner in which to receive a diagnosis of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, although x-rays and MRIs may be taken to determine whether thinning bones have occurred.  

Treatment of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Response to treatment for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is much greater in the early stages of the condition. At Seattle Pain, our interventional pain management specialists will develop a comprehensive pain treatment program to help minimize the pain you experience from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. The traditional and non-traditional treatments we offer at Seattle Pain include:

  • Nerve blocks for pain reduction;
  • Medications such as Lyrica or Cymbalta;
  • Spinal cord stimulation, and
  • Pain medications, both OTC and prescription.

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is a complex pain disorder that can be difficult to treat. At Seattle Pain we will use cutting edge technologies as well as more conservative treatments to help diminish your pain.

Are you suffering from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

Contact Our Seattle Interventional Pain Management Specialists

We understand that chronic intense pain can completely derail your life. At Seattle Pain, our primary goal is to relieve your pain and improve your quality of life. We believe in treating the whole patient – and not just the injury. You do not have to live in pain. Call us today at 253-944-1289 or complete a contact form today.

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