Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is also known as one type of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). This condition happens when a patient experiences lasting and recurring pain in the limbs following a medical condition, like a stroke or a heart attack, or after an injury.
In most cases, RSD is considered a Type 1 CRSP. This means that the pain felt by the patient isn’t likely to be caused by nerve damage, hence it may be easily treated with continued therapy.
Symptoms of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), Type 1 CRSP is manifested by limb pain that could last for more than three months. Among its most common symptoms are burning pain, sensitivity to touch, swelling, some redness and warmth in the injured area, and stiffness.
However, there are also less common symptoms of reflex sympathetic dystrophy, such as:
- Sensitivity to heat or cold
- Redness or paleness of the skin with a mildly bluish skin tone
- Muscle weakness
- Heavy sweating in the affected area
- Skin changes in the affected area
- Changes in the condition of the nails and hair
According to our pain management doctor in Spring Hill, the symptoms may start out mild but can eventually begin to interfewith your daily activities. Other than the physical effects of this condition, the patient may also experience depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Cause of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the cause of reflex sympathetic dystrophy is unclear. However, 90 percent of cases are linked to a history of injury or trauma in the body, such as sprains, fractures, burns, limb immobilization, surgery and procedures that require needles.
Triggers of the pain are different per patient as well. It could be dependent on the patient’s immune system, hence RSD may be more intense in people with autoimmune conditions like asthma.
Some patients also experience more pain in dilation or constriction of their blood vessels. It is the body’s sympathetic nervous system that regulates the blood flow. When a person is injured, the sympathetic nervous system signals the constriction of blood vessels to prevent blood loss. When the body is in recovery, the sympathetic nervous system then signals the blood vessels to open wider to aid in the healing. But these signals may be mixed and confusing for someone experiencing RSD.
Treating Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
There are various medical interventions for RSD but a patient diagnosed with the condition must have a consistent treatment program to curtail the risks of complications. Some of these interventions include:
- spinal cord stimulation
- peripheral nerve block injections
- physical therapy
- medications like opioids, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory drugs, over-the-counter pain relief
Experts in our Spring Hill pain management clinic emphasize that treatment outcomes are highly favorable if the patient has early intervention and consistent rehabilitation. In some cases, reflex sympathetic dystrophy may be more challenging to manage or treat because it has not been detected or diagnosed earlier.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent RSD especially when the injuries or medical conditions are the result of an accident. If a patient has had a stroke, heart attack or injury, mobilization is imperative during recovery to prevent RSD.
Suspecting an RSD? Consult our pain management doctor in Spring Hill
Pain Management & Spine Care’s Medical Director, Dr. Eyad Alsabbagh, is a fellowship-trained Interventional Pain Medicine pain doctor in Hernando County. He is trained and educated to provide the highest quality of service to patients suffering from multiple conditions, varying from narcotics addiction to back pain. He utilizes state-of-the-art technology at his pain management clinic in Brooksville.
Dr. Alsabbagh of Spring Hill pain management clinic understands that pain is a very personal experience. This is why he evaluates each patient’s individual needs and determines what sort of treatment will be most beneficial for that particular person. Our goal is to help you ensure a fuller, pain-free life.
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.