Treating Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Photo of author

( — March 6, 2023) — Living with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) can affect a person’s life in many ways. With CRPS, the individual experiences a heightened sensitivity to pain in a specific region of the body. In many cases, the individual may also experience pain in response to stimuli that should not produce pain. It can also have many other symptoms.

Patients who have CRPS often struggle to find effective treatment. It is a difficult condition to diagnose, and it is often misunderstood by healthcare professionals. Treatment for CRPS can also vary depending on several factors.

According to an expert from The Spero Clinic ( in Arkansas, “CRPS is a difficult condition to treat. It affects different patients in different ways. Some patients may respond better to different types of treatment as well. It means most patients require individualized solutions.”

Physical Therapy

As a condition that causes pain and loss of function, physical therapy for CRPS can be important. Physical therapy has been shown to be effective in helping patients reduce CRPS pain. Physical therapy can also help patients maintain or restore function in the affected limb. Stretching exercises are often a part of physical therapy for CRPS patients. Graded motor therapy has also been shown to be effective in treating CRPS.


As a pain condition, medication is often a part of treating CRPS. Most doctors will start by recommending OTC medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen. If the patient experiences bone loss, the doctor may prescribe medications to address that. Supplements can also play a role in treating CRPS. If OTC pain medication doesn’t work, some doctors may prescribe stronger medications. However, it is important to be careful with prescription pain medications. Patients with chronic pain issues can have higher risks of becoming dependent.

Dietary Changes

Complex regional pain syndrome can affect patients in strange ways. There can also be what may seem like unlikely triggers. For some patients, certain foods can make the condition worse. Some foods can trigger inflammation, and this may increase CRPS pain. There may also be different foods that help to relieve symptoms. Some treatment centers may order food sensitivity tests in order to find the foods that cause problems for the individual. 

Lifestyle Changes

A patient’s lifestyle can also impact how they deal with CRPS. Habits like drinking and smoking can make CRPS symptoms worse. Other health conditions can also contribute to issues with CRPS. For example, if the person is overweight, it could increase issues with CRPS. A doctor may encourage several measures to lose weight. Exercise can also be helpful for managing CRPS. The patient’s doctor may prescribe various exercises to help relieve symptoms.

Nerve Stimulation

While CRPS is not entirely understood, it is believed to be the result of dysfunction in the peripheral nervous system. For some patients, various types of nerve stimulation can help relieve the symptoms of CRPS. Under most treatment protocols, nerve stimulation either comes in the form of spinal manipulation or vagus nerve stimulation. The vagus nerve is one of the main nerves going from the brain to the rest of the body. Stimulation of that nerve has been shown to provide relief for many patients.

Electrical Stimulation

Exercising the muscles and stimulating activity in the limb are key parts of many CRPS treatment protocols. At many treatment centers,  electrical stimulation is used to exercise muscles and stimulate activity. The electrical stimulation can cause muscles to contract and increase blood flow to the area. TENS machines are one of the more common options for providing electrical stimulation for CRPS treatment.

Heat Therapy

Heat therapy is another treatment that may be useful for some patients. Heat can help relax and soothe muscles that may be tight or tense from CRPS. Temperature changes in the skin on the affected limb are another symptom for some patients. If the limb is cold, heat therapy can help warm it up. By warming the cold limb, you can also relieve pain incidents related to CRPS.

Alternative Therapies

Many patients have expressed good results from an array of alternative therapies. Chiropractic treatment and acupuncture are both options for patients with complex regional pain syndrome. Some patients may also benefit from practices like meditation and mindfulness. There have also been studies indicating positive results in treating CRPS with ketamine therapy. However, patients should discuss alternative treatments with a doctor. 

Complex regional pain syndrome is one of the most difficult pain conditions to treat. Many patients are lucky to get an accurate diagnosis. However, there are many options for treatment. The issue for most patients is finding the right combination of treatment options to address their symptoms. Working with a CRPS specialist can also help patients achieve better results.