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What causes CRPS to spread?

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a greater than the normal reaction of the body to an injury. It is a poorly understood condition in which a person experiences persistent and debilitating pain that is extremely severe. In this blog, we take a closer look at the condition and discover what causes CRPS to spread.

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition. Although most cases are triggered by an injury, the resulting pain is much more severe and long-lasting than normal. It causes intense pain, usually in the arms, legs, hands, or feet. The main cause of CRPS is unknown, therefore, there is no cure. Many cases gradually improve to some degree over time, however, some cases of CRPS never disappear completely, leaving the affected person to experience pain for many years.

One of the first and most commonly asked questions about CRPS is doing it spread. The simple answer to that is, yes. Usually, CRPS starts out in one limb, moving to another originally uninvolved limb or another part of the body. In most cases, CRPS will stay on the same side of the body – right arm, to the right leg – or spread to an opposite limb – right arm, to the left arm. Although it is rare, CRPs can occasionally spread across the body diagonally – right arm, to the left leg.

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Anything can cause a spread in a CRPS patient. The reasons why remain unclear. As a result, care needs to be taken each time any procedure is required, such as an operation, dental work or even giving blood.

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Unfortunately, it would appear the risk of a spread increases with every limb that is affected. Spreads are not only limited to limbs, as they can affect any part of the body. This can include:

  • All internal organs
  • Face
  • Mouth
  • Back (especially when undergoing surgery for a spinal cord stimulator)
  • Eyes
  • Neck
  • Genitals
  • Breasts
  • Abdomen

Highly simplified – if it has a nerve, CRPS can spread to it.

In a small number of cases, thought to be 8% or less, CRPS has spread to the entire body. More common is for CRPS to spread to an entire limb. For example, an original injury may have occurred in a finger, but CRPS has encompassed the entire limb. This is referred to as a contiguous spread.

Although there is no known cure for CRPS, a combination of physical treatments, medication, and psychological support can help and there is plenty of advice available for those living with chronic pain.

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