CRPS Images

The following images represent classic signs and symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, also known as CRPS.  Historically, this has also been referred to as sympathetic reflex dystrophy or causalgia.

I have found that the most sensitive and predictive finding is a dramatic loss in function (strength or motion) of a body part that is out of proportion to the injury.  Other common findings include:

  • changes in skin texture on the affected area; it may appear shiny and thin
  • abnormal sweating pattern in the affected area or surrounding areas
  • changes in nail and hair growth patterns
  • stiffness in affected joints
  • problems coordinating muscle movement, with decreased ability to move the affected body part
  • abnormal movement in the affected limb, most often fixed abnormal posture (called dystonia) but also tremors in or jerking of the limb.

Treatment always requires a prompt diagnosis and typically starts with therapy to improve motion and reduce discomfort.  However, some evidence suggests CRPS is propagated by a compressed nerve (ie: median nerve) and surgical intervention is sometimes recommend, such as a carpal tunnel release.

The following images show patients with an open palm, and attempted closed fist, compared to the normal side.