Dr. Stephen Smith, a functional medicine physician, provides us with an overview of the different CRPS treatment protocols they give their patients. Read on to find out more about the symptoms and treatment of this condition.
In this article:
- What Is CRPS?
- CRPS Causes
- CRPS Symptoms
- CRPS Diagnosis
- Doctor Prescribed Treatment for CRPS
- CRPS Treatment Protocols by Dr. Smith
Understanding New CRPS Treatment Options
What Is CRPS?
CRPS, or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, is a painful chronic condition that develops after an injury. This happens when the nerves around the said injury become damaged or malfunctioned. However, there are two types of CRPS. Type 1, also known as the reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome or RSD, has no confirmed nerve damage. Instead, it sends a signal to the brain for a phantom pain felt by a limb with a previous injury. Type 2, meanwhile, stems from an identified damage to a nerve.
Despite having two types, treatment tend to be similar for both.
The exact cause of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) isn't well understood but may involve abnormal inflammation or nerve dysfunction.
CRPS is characterized by pain that is greater than would be expected from the injury that causes it.
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- Lymphedema – CRPS usually occurs in an extremity. Lymphedema, when the lymph fluid gets stuck in the limb causing it to swell, can be a cause of CRPS. Lymphedema also causes the accumulation of toxins in the area. This results in inflammation which, in turn, triggers the production of cytokines. These small proteins then cause pain.
- Low glutathione – Glutathione is a compound made by the body to combat inflammation and remove toxins. Low levels of glutathione make the body susceptible to conditions like CRPS. Balanced glutathione levels help avoid CRPS syndrome.
- Methylation defects – This is related to glutathione deficiency. The methylation pathway is responsible for the production of glutathione, control of neurotransmitters, and the production of compounds needed for detoxification. It also controls genetics, specifically the turning on and off of problems in methylation cause systemic problems.
- Toxicity – This condition results from the first three symptoms mentioned. Everyday toxins like benzene, gas fumes, and heavy metals become harder to remove from the body when all three (or even just one) symptoms are present. They accumulate in the body, especially in the affected area/s. The result is the high possibility of conditions like CRPS.
- Interference field – This cause is not commonly present in all CRPS conditions but is still worth mentioning. It may take the form of scars. They cause interference to the signaling between neurons in the body (e.g. interference to the autonomic nervous system’s control on the body’s blood flow). Treatment of the scar (and thus, interference field) is easy though, with the injection of procaine or any local anesthetic.
Type 2 CRPS tend to be constantly painful. Patients may also experience other symptoms around the afflicted area such as:
- Tender and swollen limb
- Skin looking shiny and thin
- Abnormal nail and hair growth
- Joint stiffness
- Limited muscle coordination
- Change in skin color
- Change in skin temperature
- Allodynia or increased sensitivity of the skin
If the patient had a recent injury near the afflicted area, then there’s a higher possibility of CRPS syndrome. However, CRPS has similar symptoms with other health problems such as arthritis, clotted vein, and even Lyme Disease. That’s why it’s important for doctors to conduct several tests to rule out these conditions.
Medical tests such as bone scans and MRIs can be done to make sure the patient is indeed suffering from CRPS. Doing so will give the doctor a better idea of how to diagnose and prescribe the best CRPS treatment.
Younger people have better chances of faster healing. On the other hand, reactions to treatment of older individuals may vary. Some heal well, while others continue to experience chronic pain after receiving treatment.
Doctor Prescribed Treatment for CRPS
Once a diagnosis has been made, various treatments may be prescribed by a doctor. In many cases, doctors prefer medications and even surgery as opposed to natural remedies. Some of these treatments include:
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation – Blocked blood flow greatly affects a CRPS foot or arm. Exercising the area helps improve blood flow to ease swelling in the area.
- Medication – The doctor may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug as well as a topical analgesic to help ease the pain, especially when it becomes too much to handle.
- Sympathetic nerve blocks – An analgesic is injected near the central nervous system in the spinal cord to give the patient temporary pain relief.
- Spinal cord stimulation – This method injects electrodes into the spinal area to give the affected area tingling sensations. They allow patients to turn the electrodes on or off during painful times.
CRPS Treatment Protocols by Dr. Smith
On the other hand, Dr. Stephen Smith opts to cure CRPS by addressing the cause instead of the symptoms as many health practitioners do. Dr. Smith’s approach is to address all 5 causes using:
- Homeopathics (for lymphedema)
- Hyperbaric chambers (for lymphedema)
- Lymphatic massage (for lymphedema)
- Glutathione management (for glutathione deficiency)
- Location of genes causing methylation problems
- Enzyme supplements (e.g. For MTHFR 677 anomaly, take elemental folate supplement to bypass the genetic problem of methylation.)
- Detoxification through chelation, herbal and vitamin mixes
- Injection of local anesthetic
Complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS, is also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy. It has not been amenable to mainstream treatment, mainly because the treatments have been focused on treating pain rather than the underlying causes. Although this may not be true for all cases of complex regional pain syndrome or CRPS. What Dr. Stephen Smith has found in the cases he has encountered are the 4 to 5 causes that manifest as symptoms (mentioned above). Note that several of the 5 causes have to be present for the condition to exist.
What are your thoughts on the CRPS treatment options presented above? Share them with us in the comments section below!
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. None of the nutritional products mentioned is intended to Diagnose, Treat, Cure, or Prevent Any Disease.
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on February 28, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.