Chronic Pain

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSDS)/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS) and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) are two common names for pain syndromes that occur when the sympathetic nervous system goes awry.

In the past, this syndrome has also been called causalgia, Sudeck's atrophy, post traumatic dystrophy, shoulder hands syndrome and reflex neurovascular dystrophy.

The Sympathetic Nervous System

The sympathetic nerves are part of the autonomic nervous system, which governs involuntary movements and body processes. In general, the sympathetic nervous system causes responses to occur - like making your heart beat faster when you're frightened.

These actions are balanced by the other part of the autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system - which, in this example, makes your heart slow down when the fear has passed.

In rare cases, trauma (such as that caused by injury or surgery) can lead to an abnormal response from the sympathetic nervous system that causes RSDS.

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome

RSDS has specific characteristics:

For most people with RSDS symptoms will go away over time, but sometimes symptoms spread away from the initial site and affect a whole limb or even the whole body. In rare cases, the pain, skin changes and motor symptoms can persist for years and become debilitating.

Treatment at Stanford Clinical Neurosciences

The Clinical Neurosciences Department at Stanford Hospital treats patients with RSDS who have tried most other treatments and have not found relief.

Our physicians are leaders in their field, conducting research on some of the most cutting edge treatments available today. For example, Stanford is one of the few medical centers in the world to offer spinal cord stimulation and motor cortex stimulation for RSDS.

In collaboration with the Stanford Pain Center, our physicians will ensure that you have access to every possible therapy. The Department accepts referrals of complex cases from around the world.


Stanford Medicine Resources:

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