Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

What causes CRPS?

The cause of CRPS is not well understood. Some patients may have a preceding injury or illness. The injury that precedes onset of CRPS may be mild, for example, stubbing a toe. Some families may have multiple members affected by CRPS. No genetic risk factor for CRPS has been identified.

How is CRPS diagnosed?

Currently, there is no available test for CRPS. Diagnosis is based on recognition of characteristic symptoms and exam findings.

A diagnosis of CRPS is best made by a doctor with experience in recognizing CRPS. Physicians at our Pediatric AMPS Program have extensive expertise with the diagnosis of all forms of amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome, including CRPS.

How is CRPS treated at Columbia?

Treatment for CRPS in children typically includes the following:

  • Physical therapy and/or occupational therapy with a home exercise and pain desensitization regimen
  • Psychology evaluation, to address coping techniques and patient/family education on behavioral pain management
  • Medications are not usually recommended for treatment of pediatric CRPS
  • The goals of CRPS treatment are to improve your ability to function physically and to decrease the severity of your pain. Functional improvement usually occurs first and is then followed by reduction of pain. For patients who do not experience improvement with outpatient treatment, inpatient or day-treatment programs often help.

CRPS Prognosis

The prognosis for children and teenagers with CRPS is good, and most patients treated with physical therapy and counseling respond well to treatment.