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Painful Truth About Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Reflex Sympathetic dystrophy (RSD syndrome, or complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic neurological syndrome characterized by severe burning pain and extreme sensitivity to touch, pathological changes in bone and skin, tissue swelling and excessive sweating. The trigger is usually some form of physical injury, which could be as minor as a bruise or a serious crushing wound, which does not follow the normal healing path, resulting in RSD.

The condition can lead to permanent disability. There is no way to predict if and when it can develop. According to the RSD Syndrome Association in the United States, it may follow 5 per cent of all injuries. The main symptoms are constant chronic burning pain, inflammation as well as spasms in the affected areas. Sufferers may become depressed and unable to sleep. The affected area may be hot or cold to the touch. The skin may become shiny, red and dry. Swelling is also possible.

Moving the affected limb will usually cause intense pain. In many cases, the pain worsened by any kind of touch, including contact with clothing and bedsheets. Even sounds and vibrations can exacerbate the pain. Without treatment, RSD can lead to crippling disability, as the bones and soft tissues in the affected area deteriorate. An important part of treatment is physical therapy and rehabilitation, to maintain muscle strength and join motion, as well as drugs that help relieve the nerve-induced pain.


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