Complex regional pain syndrome and stress disorders have a complicated relationship, the details of which are still being investigated. Both conditions are treatable in many ways, but before exploring treatment options, it’s critical to learn as much as you can beforehand to make an informed decision.
What Is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
According to the experts at The Mayo Clinic, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a kind of chronic pain that is felt most often in an arm or a leg. CRPS normally happens following an injury, a stroke, surgery, or a heart attack. The pain someone experiences is usually disproportionate to how bad the injury was initially.
CRPS is unusual, with its cause a source of debate. Treatment may return positive results when it starts early and often leads to improvement and even possible remission.
Like many other physical pain conditions, complex regional pain syndrome features symptoms that are unique to each person. Not only do they vary by person, but also by intensity, frequency, and the time each symptom lasts.
- Spur-of-the-moment pain without cause can be continuous or vary with activity.
- Excess or lengthy pain after moving or contact.
- Variations in how your skin feels to the touch.
- Your joints may be stiff.
- Reduced muscle movement and strength.
What Causes CRPS?
The cause isn’t understood, but researchers think inflammation, nerve damage, and how the brain and spinal cord perceive pain could decide CRPS development factors. According to The Cleveland Clinic, inflammation, denoted by the presence of particular substances and chemicals in tissue, blood, and spinal fluid, is possibly the main culprit. Other possibilities? Certain pain-making compounds in nerves, faulty messaging between nerves where the injury happened, and the body and brain are overreacting to the sensation of pain.
Common Types of Stress Disorders
Stress, as we know, has many triggers. Anxiety disorders, when you feel deep worry, anxiety, or fear strong enough to affect your daily life, are a big reason people with CRPS also have stress. Here are some to be aware of:
- Generalized anxiety disorder happens when you experience long-term anxiety, inflated worry, and pressure, even without apparent cause.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder presents with recurring, unwelcome obsessions or monotonous compulsions. You do things like hand washing and number counting repeatedly in the hope of blocking obsessive thoughts or forcing them away.
- Panic disorder features unexpected and recurrent instances of powerful fear paired with physical symptoms like chest pain, dizziness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or abdominal discomfort.
Social phobia or social anxiety disorder is another kind of stress or anxiety disorder that rates as a trigger for CRPS. This means you experience devastating anxiety and extreme self-consciousness in daily social situations.
The Link Between CRPS and Stress Disorders
Medicine and science have long debated possible links between complex regional pain syndrome and stress disorders, focusing on the cyclical nature of post-traumatic stress disorder, physical pain, and other stress disorders or issues like anxiety.
According to studies cited in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, magnetic resonance imaging has noted changes in brain structure in patients who experience posttraumatic stress disorder and various other stress disorders. Many people with PTSD have also experienced lingering, chronic regional pain syndrome. Other work has reported similar findings.
It’s also worth mentioning that CRPS and stress disorders are intricately related when looking into the role of autoimmune functions. Harvard Medical School researchers posit that stress disorders could trigger autoimmune diseases. The U.S. Center for Biotechnology Information reported a direct link between complex regional pain syndrome, autoimmune dysfunction, and other neurological problems.
If you experience symptoms of CRPS, your healthcare provider should be able to offer diagnosis and treatment options, but there are natural remedies to consider for reducing pain levels. These include:
- Essential oils
- Mindfulness meditation
- Relaxation exercises
- Massage therapy
- Epsom salt baths
- Yoga, Qi gong, and/or Tai Chi
- Herbal medicines
- Anti-inflammatory diet
Managing stress and anxiety on your own is another possibility, with natural remedies worth considering to complement healthcare provider-recommended treatment. You may want to consider:
- Remain physically active and get 30 minutes of light exercise each day.
- Stay away from alcohol and recreational drugs and substances.
- Eliminate tobacco and caffeine from your daily life, if possible.
- Eat healthily and get enough sleep each day.
Consult with your healthcare provider if you’re affected by either condition or ask about treatment options, including ketamine sessions.