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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Acupuncture

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – CRPS – also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), is a chronic progressive condition triggered by nerve injury and characterized by severe pain, inflammation, swelling and changes in the skin affecting arms, legs, hands or feet.  Experts have yet to discover the cause of CRPS, but have learned that injury or surgery may initiate the onset (designated Type 2), even though in some cases no previous or very minor injury occurred (Type 1). 

The condition is very painful, debilitating and difficult to treat as there is currently no cure and most treatment involves alleviating the symptoms and pain management.  The symptoms are continuous and often described as a combination of burning and electrical shocks.  Part or all of a limb may be affected, become hypersensitive and if touched, bumped, or exposed to temperature changes the pain can be excruciating.  There may eventually be muscle atrophy (wasting) in the affected limb due to non-use triggered by increased pain.

Hopefully, at some point modern medical science will discover both a preventative treatment and a cure for this extremely painful and damaging syndrome.  In the past, experts often attributed symptoms to a psychological trigger (“all in the mind”), but this has been disproved as more recent research shows that distinct physical changes occur in the nervous system.  Although the psychological support aspect is often included in the treatment of CRPS sufferers, this is now seen as the result of the trauma of constant pain and resulting debility of CRPS, rather than the instigator.

In recent years, treating physicians are increasingly advocating the alternative therapy of acupuncture in conjunction with conventional medicines and procedures to alleviate the syndrome’s debilitating effects and improve quality of life.

Although acupuncture can’t cure CRPS, the good news about the use of acupuncture for the treatment of a condition as perplexing and intractable as CRPS, is that acupuncture treats what is happening to and in the body and doesn’t rely on the treatment of the cause of that occurrence.  Even if the cause of the syndrome is still unknown, acupuncture can treat the body’s response, helping afflicted patients to find some relief from the distressing symptoms of this debilitating syndrome.

If you or someone you know is suffering from CRPS, schedule an acupuncture appointment today!