Looking at the Bigger Picture: Diagnosing Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

It’s very hard to diagnose Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (or CRPS for short), simply because the symptoms are usually far apart, and do not appear connected. It’s harder still when they do not manifest at the same time. It’s very hard to pinpoint a particular sickness when you’re looking at the bits and pieces of it, rather than the large picture. However, there are clues that can help guide you towards a correct CRPS diagnosis, and here are some of them. Warning! Once you feel these symptoms in your body, go and see your doctor immediately!

1.Pain in your Body

If compared, a pain from a CRPS injury is much worse than the pain from the original injury. It can range through all the different kinds of pain, from burning to throbbing to stabbing to crushing. All these kinds of pain are caused by different trauma; however, they can all be symptoms of CRPS. The pain is also inconsistent; it can be quite mild one moment, then greatly fluctuate and intensify the next. However, it is proposed that nervous system hyperactivity causes CRPS pain. This can be caused by even a small injury or surgery, and that causes the complete cycle of pain to start.


The tenderness that is associated with CRPS falls through the whole spectrum. It can be very mild to very intense. In medical speak, this tenderness is termed as Allodynia. You can feel pain from normal, everyday stimuli that does not cause pain generally, such as a light breeze. You will feel a slight twinge of pain even after the stimulus is gone, and this remaining pain is called Hyperpathia.

At first, you may or may not feel this kind of tenderness. Coupled with the pain, this is the hardest symptom of CRPS to treat. Should the tenderness be really intense, some people will begin to shy away from all movement and activities that require movement, which will then lead to further complications such as muscle atrophy or weakening.

3.Temperature of the Skin

The skin is a very good indicator of what is happening to the body. It can show fluctuating temperatures, ranging everything to freezing cold to slightly cold, to warm, to burning up.

Cold temperature of the skin is thought to be caused by blood vessel constriction. This is done to preserve core heat, but the price is that is limits circulation to your limbs.

4.Color of the skin

The color of your skin will give you a very big clue of what is happening to the internal temperature of your body, as the color changes will the fluctuating temperatures. If the skin is hot, the color will range from light to deep red. If it is cold, it could be any color from blue, purple, pink or a combination of them. It could also be so pale, it could be quite colorless.

Once a limb is down, this discoloration becomes more apparent. It becomes darker in color. Once you stand however, the coloring returns to normal. This is thought to happen because sufficient circulation has been returned to the limb.

5.Inflammation or Puffiness

The swelling is also hard to pinpoint, as it can range from hardly noticeable to very severe. It also be either localized to one part, or have a large point of the limb swollen.

Again, CRPS is very hard because the symptoms listed here are but a few of them. There are so many more out there that also point to CRPS. You can even be affected on an emotional level by the sickness. This article is the first in a series that will explore all the signs of Complex Region Pain Syndrome.