Sometimes you find you have pain long after your injury has healed. If you have pain, tingling and numbness, swelling, or sensitivity to touch in an area that was affected by an injury, you might have developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). This is a serious condition that requires medical attention.
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or RSD is a chronic pain condition that involves damage to the nerves. Although RSD is the common name, it’s also called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS. These two names refer to the same condition.
RSD is not a psychological condition. Despite what people may say, the pain is not “in your head.” It’s caused by an actual injury and is associated with impairment to the nerves. There are two types of RSD:
- Type I: This is associated with injuries that don’t directly damage the nerves and do not leave ay detectable nerve lesions. However, the nerves are thrown into a state of “dysregulation” or impairment.
- Type II: Sometimes called causalgia, this is associated with injuries that cause direct damage to the nerves.
Most people suffering from RSD have Type I, and experience extreme pain even though the nerves were not directly hurt. If left untreated it can cause serious disability.
RSD usually develops following some sort of injury. It’s commonly caused by a car, motorcycle or bicycle crash/collision, but can also follow any kind of injury. It can also be caused by anything that might irritate the nerves, for example, carpal tunnel, stroke, shingles or severe arthritis.
Exactly RSD develops is not well understood. The most likely explanation is that the injury irritates or excites the nearby nerves, causing them to send incorrect pain signals to the brain and surrounding tissue. The body then responds to the perceived “pain” with swelling and sensitivity as if it is real damage. The swelling only puts more pressure on the nerves, potentially creating a feedback loop that develops into chronic pain.
Pain is not the only symptom of RSD. Complete symptoms may include:
- Reddening or paling of the affected area
- Swelling and tenderness
- Thinning of the bones in the affected area
- Pain that starts mild or intermittent but becomes serious and persistent
- Changes to the skin including areas of hard, thick shiny skin
- Loss of motion or function or the affected area
These symptoms typically begin in the area affected by the initial injury, usually just one limb or one hand or foot. As time goes on they may spread.
Since there is no cure for RSD, there are a variety of methods used to treat the symptoms, which can lead to its remission. The chance of remission is best when the condition is caught early. If treatment can start in the first three months, there is a good chance of improving the symptoms and preventing the condition from progressing. If not, RSD is more likely to become permanent, and can cause irreversible changes to the body.
The treatment of RSD involves two approaches:
- Physical therapy
Of the two, physical therapy is shown to have the greatest benefit. The goal of physical therapy is to rehabilitate the area by restoring motion and function, and decreasing its extreme sensitivity.
Medication may include pain medicine, anti-inflammatories, or nerve blocking medicines, among others.
If you or a loved one are experiencing RSD because of another party’s negligent or reckless conduct, let us help. Our goal is to secure the compensation you deserve so that you can focus on your physical and emotional recovery. Contact us today.