November is CRPS Awareness Month, established to bring attention to a rare but incredibly painful chronic condition occurring in almost 200,000 Americans every year. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is an autoimmune disease of the nervous system, usually resulting from traumatic injury to an arm…
CRPS Lawsuit Information
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), is an autoimmune disease of the nervous system that sometimes appears after a serious injury to a limb. People with CRPS/RSD suffer from near-constant and debilitating pain in the affected limb to the point where just brushing against it can hurt badly. This rare condition, found in less than 200,000 Americans annually, is incurable and can only be treated through pain management. Most people eventually recover from serious injuries, like the ones suffered in car accidents. However, those who develop CPRS will be permanently damaged, sometimes for a few years and sometimes for the rest of their lives. CPRS is the most painful of all existing chronic pain disorders.
CRPS sufferers who feel an accident or injury produced their CRPS may have difficulty recovering damages. For one thing, it can take years after an accident to discover the presence of CRPS, and the statute of limitations on successfully filing personal injury claims is often just a couple of years. Additionally, it is already a misunderstood condition among medical professionals. Finding an attorney who knows CRPS can be challenging but is essential. Read further to learn more about CRPS/RSD and why it’s important to understand your legal options.
Explanation of CRPS/RSD
CRPS/RSD is generally the result of traumatic injury to an arm or a leg, but sometimes hands or feet can be affected. It is usually confined to one area but can occasionally travel elsewhere in the body. Symptoms include severe burning pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, excessive swelling, sweating and tissue discoloration. It is a rather mysterious condition and usually quite difficult for a physician to diagnose because there isn’t a scan, test or tool that can reveal it. It can only be diagnosed after every other possibility has been ruled out and the patient is sent to a pain management specialist.
The Budapest Criteria is a method used to confirm a CRPS diagnosis. It is a set of diagnostic guidelines that separate ‘signs’ and ‘symptoms.’ Signs are something the physician feels or observes while performing an exam. Symptoms are what the patient tells the doctor is happening to them.
To receive a CRPS diagnosis under the Budapest Criteria, patients must complain about at least one symptom in at least one of the following three categories:
- Sudomotor/oedema – excessive and/or changing sweating and swelling
- Vasomotor – changes in skin color/temperature
- Sensory – unusually high sensitivity or pain from something that should not be painful, like a finger on the wrist or adjusting clothing
- Motor/trophic – decreased range of motion such as spasms and weakness or changes to the features on the limb such as hair and skin
In addition, the doctor must detect at least one sign in at least two of these categories. The signs can vary somewhat from the symptoms.
An alarming 2017 study showed that patients who already have CRPS are 75 percent more likely to develop a secondary case if a healthy body part is injured in such cases as surgery, accidents or broken bones. For a disorder so painful that victims commonly refer to it as “the suicide disease,” having it attack a second body part is unimaginable.
Well-Known People Suffering from CRPS
Several prominent public figures suffer from CRPS; some, like Paula Adbul, have used their celebrity as an awareness campaign for the disorder. The pop singer, dancer and American Idol judge sustained a serious injury to her neck while cheerleading at age 17. The pain never seemed to go away, and when some airplane turbulence jolted her head unnaturally years later, it just got worse. She tried surgery, different pain medications – nothing worked. It took 25 years for her to receive an official CRSP diagnosis, but she still dances to this day.
Professional football player Nazair Jones started feeling excruciating pain in his legs at age 15. He wasn’t diagnosed until several years later either, but somehow it didn’t prevent him from being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in his junior year of college and playing for the team through the 2019 season. These instances demonstrate how CRPS patients can find manageable treatment options and continue to live full lives.
What Aggravates CRPS?
CRPS is already incredibly challenging to live with, and there are several things patients must avoid in order not to worsen the condition. A very specific diet with healthy foods is crucial to living with CRPS.
As with other autoimmune diseases, CRPS patients have an overactive immune system that treats healthy cells as foreign invaders, leading to inflammation. Certain foods that trigger inflammation will increase pain and swelling in the affected limb. These include:
- Processed meat such as bacon, sausage and luncheon meats
- Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white flour, cereal and pasta
- Foods containing sugar and high fructose corn syrup
- Seed and vegetable oils such as peanut, canola and sesame
- Gluten found in wheat, rice and barley
People with CRPS should also stay away from heavy drinking, lots of caffeine, and any type of smoking. Alcohol toxins can pass out of the colon and into other body parts, resulting in serious inflammation.
Luckily for CRPS patients, there are plenty of anti-inflammatory foods that are generally good for your entire body. Salmon and tuna, colorful fruits and vegetables like spinach, apples and blueberries, and spices such as cinnamon and honey.
If possible, CRPS patients should avoid surgery, casts and ice because they can aggravate the nervous system, causing inflammation.
CRPS Treatment Options
Fortunately, there is a wide variety of CRPS treatments available for patients. Although the disease is incurable, it can be managed very effectively through medication and various types of physical therapy. Medication can include oral pain relievers such as ibuprofen, depression and sleep medications like amitriptyline, steroids and even low doses of ketamine.
A combination of physical and occupational therapy can also be beneficial. These include aquatic therapy, gradual weight-bearing exercises, stretching, and even mirror therapy. This interesting psychological approach involves tricking the brain into believing that it can move the affected limb without pain. Here are some more promising treatment options:
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Spinal cord stimulation
- Heat therapy
- Mental health care like coping skills and relaxation techniques to keep depression and anger at bay
One of the largest disadvantages of having an autoimmune disease is that it’s invisible. The excruciating pain a CRPS patient might be experiencing is not visible outside their body. It’s important to be around others who understand what you’re going through, and luckily several CRPS organizations offer a variety of support groups.
Support groups have the same benefits for CRPS sufferers as they do for any other affliction. Being in constant pain can make it hard or impossible to participate in regular activities and social engagements. Support groups are full of others you can relate to, and they are a great place to make friends. You may even feel compelled to share your own story, and your insights can be of help to someone else. They are available in person but also online, a great source during the ongoing pandemic. You can find support groups in your area or via video chat at the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association (RSDSA), the Burning Limb Foundation, or the CRPS forum.
Perhaps the most rewarding source of support is via a trained service dog. Dogs can offer physical and emotional assistance to their CRPS humans. They require loving interaction and daily care, which can lower their owner’s stress and give them something to live for outside of their condition.
Pet therapy is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure and ramp up endorphin production. Trained service dogs can also assist in everyday tasks when a patient is in pain, such as opening and closing doors and retrieving objects. Depending on the patient’s individual needs, an emotional service dog or an officially certified Service Animal could also offer moral support. Certified dogs can go into any public place according to the American Disabilities Act. Training a therapy dog can be very expensive and take a few years, but there are resources available for those who cannot sustain the expense.
Ongoing Research for CRPS
Because CRPS is such a rare disorder, there is a lot of ongoing interest in developing medications to treat it better. Clinical trials are always an option – patients submit to trying a new drug at little or no cost to them, usually through medical schools or major hospitals. Several clinical trials are actively recruiting, including:
- A Clinical Trail of The Evoke, a closed loop Spinal Cord System
- The efficacy of nitrous oxide for CRPS relief (Cleveland Clinic)
A 2019 study by the University of Liverpool found that a set of proteins, collectively referred to as “IL-1,” are considered pro-inflammatory and can increase CRPS pain. The proteins are found in certain antibodies within the systems of long-term patients. The researchers transferred the antibodies to mice, which gave them a condition very similar to CRPS. They used an already available drug, anakinra, to prevent and reverse the mice’s conditions. They believe the treatment is very promising for CRPS patients and other kinds of chronic pain disorders. The amount of research being done means there are surely new treatments on the horizon.
How a CRPS Lawyer Can Help
If you believe you or a loved one was stricken with CRPS due to an accident or injury, it’s essential to hire a law team that has worked specifically with CRPS patients and knows as much as possible about this largely unknowable condition. Most personal injury lawyers do not focus on just one medical affliction, so having attorneys who have taken the time to learn about it can be the key to recovering entitled damages. The Cochran Firm Texas has nationally recognized CRPS lawyers that are here to help. If you think your CRPS/RSD is the result of an accident or injury, call us at 800-THE-FIRM (800-843-3476), contact us online, or use our online chat for a free review and consultation of your case.