Complex Regional Pain Syndrome | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is complex regional pain syndrome diagnosed?

Physicians diagnose complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) based on a child's symptoms and medical history. There isn't currently a specific test to determine if someone has CRPS, but certain tests — including blood tests and imaging scans — can help rule out other causes of chronic pain, such as Lyme disease and arthritis.

How complex regional pain syndrome treated?

The goal CRPS treatment is to relieve pain and improve your child's quality of life. CRPS appears to respond best to a multifaceted therapeutic approach that involves clinicians from a variety of different specialties. Treatments for CRPS can include:

Physical therapy. Exercise and physical therapy (PT) are cornerstones of a CRPS treatment plan. Research suggests that programs involving intensive exercise and PT — up to six hours a day — can improve symptoms of CRPS in the majority of children with this condition.

Psychotherapy. Psychological approaches including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) have been found to help improve quality of life in people with chronic pain. CBT in particular helps children gain the tools they need to cope with CRPS, which in turn may help relieve pain.

Medication. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any drugs to treat CRPS in children, some physicians may use certain medications to improve pain. These can include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen), antidepressants (such as amitriptyline) and anti-seizure drugs (such as gabapentin).

Nerve stimulation. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a noninvasive therapy that uses a low-voltage electrical current to help relieve pain from CRPS.