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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also called reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) syndrome, is a chronic pain condition that often occurs in the arms or legs after a minor or major injury.


Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) often develops after an injury to the arm or leg. The condition may occur after what seemed like a minor injury, such as a sprain.
However, in Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome the pain persists long after the injury as healed.


CRPS most commonly occurs in people between the ages of 40 to 60 years, however, it does occur in younger people as well.


The symptoms of CRPS vary in their severity and duration. Individuals with CRPS often describe continuous, intense pain that gets worse rather than better over time. It may even spread to other areas of the body. For instance, if the injury only originally involved a finger or toe, pain can spread to include the entire arm or leg. In some cases, pain can even travel to the opposite extremity.

Other symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome include:

  • Burning pain
  • Swelling and stiffness in affected joints
  • Decreased ability to move the affected body part
  • Skin changes and changes in nail and hair growth
    • Hair may become sparse and fine
    • Skin may become shiny and appear blotchy
    • Skin may feel warmer or cooler on the injured side when compared to the other side
    • Skin may sweat too much or not at all
Last UpdateJune 7, 2011