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How Car Accidents Can Cause Complex Regional Pain Syndrome—And What You Can Do

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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – Anyone who’s ever experienced forceful trauma from a major stressful event knows firsthand what it’s like to be in constant, searing pain. Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) —a condition that affects approximately 200,000 American adults every year— causes exactly that, and is associated with loss of mobility and function, huge healthcare costs, and a poor quality of life.

According to County Line Chiropractic, a Pembroke Pines car accident doctor, if you develop intense, localized excruciating pain that lasts longer than six months following a car crash or trauma, be sure to visit a knowledgeable physician for examination.

Read on to learn more about CRPS, how car accidents can cause this rare neurological condition, and what you can do when you develop CRPS.

CRPS Defined

Complex regional pain syndrome is a rare neurological condition that may affect a person after a traumatic injury. Victims suffer from a constant, searing pain that’s out of proportion compared to the severity of the actual injury.

In addition to the intense, localized excruciating pain— which is the primary symptom of this condition— CRPS is characterized by changes in skin color and texture, swelling in your affected limb, dramatic changes in skin temperature, deterioration in motor function, rapid or no hair growth, and stiffness of the joints. And while this medical condition can affect any area of your body, it’s more likely to affect your extremities (finger, foot, hand, arm, or leg).

With no definitive test for diagnosing CRPS, it can be hard to detect this medical condition. However, your physician will make a diagnosis based upon the symptoms you’re experiencing and your medical history.

The origin or cause of this chronic pain syndrome may be unknown in some cases. This is why your doctor may have to conduct a range of body scans, X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging, and sweat production tests to rule out other conditions first.

It’s not uncommon for CRPS victims to be misdiagnosed as this condition is fairly rare and widely misunderstood. In many cases, it’s the last thing anyone, including your physician, would think about after your arm, neck, or leg hurts after a traumatic event.

CRPS can be categorized into:

  • CRPS type I, which accounts for nearly 9 out of 10 cases of CRPS, and occurs when there are no nerve lesions or injuries.
  • CRPS type II, which comprises about 10 percent of all CRPS cases, and occurs when there’s nerve damage.

How Can Car Accidents Lead to CRPS?

Motor vehicle accidents are often a precursor to the onset of complex regional pain syndrome. Often, the initial injury in the aftermath of a car crash is minor and unalarming, but can quickly escalate into unending, debilitating pain that lasts for months.

Here’s the thing: a car crash is a traumatic event that can be very hard on your body. When it happens, there may be no damage to your vehicle and you may not appear or feel injured. However, a couple of hours, days, weeks, or even months after the crash, you may develop severe pain that spreads throughout your entire body and impacts your day-to-day life.

The blunt-force trauma, lacerations, and whiplash experienced during a car accident can compress, stretch, and sever nerves in the affected area, causing a dysfunction in the body’s nervous systems. According to researchers, this dysfunction affects the messaging between nerves in the affected part, causing the body to overreact to the pain signals being sent to the brain.

What Treatment Options are Available for CRPS patients?

As mentioned, CRPS is fairly rare and often missed by doctors. Most victims are usually healthy before a car accident, and it can take weeks or even months before a physician comes up with an accurate diagnosis of their continuous, debilitating pain. Some physicians may not believe you when you talk about your pain. According to them, you’re exaggerating your pain or symptoms yet all you want is to feel better and get back to doing the things you love. This is why diagnosis for this condition is not always quick and easy, and the patient has to strongly self-advocate for treatment.

Treatment for this chronic pain syndrome varies depending on the severity of the condition and the affected part of the body. It’s, however, important to note that there’s no single protocol for treating this condition currently.

Common treatment options include occupational therapy, sympathetic nerve blocks, rehabilitation and physical therapy, and prescription drugs such as corticosteroids, bisphosphonates, anti-inflammatories, opioids, and anti-seizure drugs. If you’re experiencing anxiety and depression symptoms, psychotherapy may be included in your treatment plan.

It’s important that this condition is diagnosed as early as possible to prevent a prolonged course. Though treatments for CRPS can be extensive and costly, they can help prevent long-term disability and improve the quality of your life.

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