Physiotherapy for Treating Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

A woman in bed holding her sore neck.

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a condition in which a person experiences excruciating pain. CRPS can last for over six months and can affect one limb following a surgery or injury. The pain can, however, spread to other parts of the body.

The skin in the affected area tends to swell, change in color and temperature, and become more sensitive when touched. Even a slight touch or change in temperature can trigger intense pain.

It’s believed that damages in the central nervous system can result in CRPS. Some CRPS cases are mild while some are extreme. Some patients see the symptoms go away over time while some continue to experience the pain for years.

If you experience intense and persistent pain that prevents you from doing everyday activities, be sure to see your doctor immediately. CRPS can be difficult to diagnose as there’s no specific test for it.

CRPS Causes

The exact cause of complex regional pain syndrome is unknown although it is linked to the abnormal response of the body to an injury. CRPS has two types, CRPS-I and CRPS-II.

CRPS-I or reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome involves cases without direct damage to the nerves. CRPS-II or causalgia, on the other hand, is associated with a nerve injury. Although their causes are different, treatment is similar for both cases.


CRPS can affect anyone but it is found it be more common among women around age 40. Cases affecting seniors and children are very few.  Here are some of the common symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome.

Treatment for CRPS

Here are types of treatment used for complex regional pain syndrome.

Physiotherapy for Treatment of CRPS

Your physiotherapist will work with you in developing a treatment program according to your unique needs. There is no β€œexact same” approach for treating CRPS as symptoms also vary per patient. Strenuous or high-level physical activities are not recommended as they can be harmful.

Movement therapy will be used to help prevent tightening of affected muscles and joints and also to help restore function. Your physiotherapist may also recommend Graded Motor Imagery or GMI to exercise the brain and β€˜reconnect’ it to the affected body part. When the brain sees a body part as a threat, it introduces pain so you can respond and treat the affected area immediately. However, this natural process does not work for parts of the body affected by CRPS.

Physiotherapists will help you set realistic goals as you cope with the effects of CRPS. They’ll help you manage your condition and restore your self-confidence.

If you’re dealing with CRPS, there’s professional help available for you. Contact us today at (902) 425-3775 to speak with one of our friendly physiotherapists.

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