The difference between Type 1 & Type 2 CRPS - Brian Barr
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The difference between Type 1 & Type 2 CRPS

Complex regional pain syndrome (CPRS) affects approximately 5% of all injuries that occur yet remains poorly understood.


Characterised by severe, debilitating pain, the chronic condition most often affects a person’s limbs and can get progressively worse over time. There are two forms of CRPS, known simply as Type 1 CRPS and Type 2 CRPS. In this blog, we look at the characteristics of each and compare differences. Read on to find out more.

Complex regional pain syndrome usually occurs after an injury or trauma and most typically affects the arms, legs, hands, or feet. CRPS is thought to be the result of damage or malfunction of the central or peripheral nervous system.

There are many misconceptions about CRPS, which often makes diagnosis difficult. According to the Royal College of Physicians Guidelines, it can be said that CRPS is:

A debilitating, painful chronic condition in a limb or extremity
It is associated with sensory, motor, autonomic, skin and bone abnormalities
Pain is the leading symptom and is usually out of proportion to the original or inciting event
It is often associated with limb dysfunction
It causes psychological distress – CRPS is not caused by psychological issues or mental health problems
It often arises after an injury to a limb

Complex regional pain syndrome occurs in two types, each of which have similar signs and symptoms but different causes.

CRPS Type 1, also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSDS), occurs after an injury or an illness that did not directly damage a nerve in the affected limb. It usually follows minor or major tissue injury to the extremities. According to the complex regional pain syndrome section on the Mayo Clinic website, around 90% of CRPS sufferers have Type 1.

Symptoms of CRPS Type 1:

The pain from CRPS Type 1 is unusually severe and may continue after the injury has healed. The injured limb of a patient with CRPS Type 1 may swell or sweat. Temperature changes and altered skin tone may also become evident. The skin may become thin and the sufferer prone to infections and sores.

CRPS Type 2, once referred to as causalgia, has similar symptoms to Type 1 but occurs after a distinct nerve injury. One distinguishable characteristic is that CRPS Type 2 does not migrate from the original site of injury like CRPS Type 1.

Symptoms of CRPS Type 2:
Skin and nails are amongst the areas that may become damaged by CRPS Type 2, with a distinct change in the rate of hair and nail growth. Pain from CRPS Type 2 is manageable at first, however, generally develops a resistance to pain medicines. The joints of the affected area are likely to stiffen and dysfunction.

Burning Nights, a support network for CRPS sufferers, carers and families, refer to a third subtype of complex regional pain syndrome known as CRPS Not Otherwise Specified or CRPS NOS. This is related to patients who do not fully meet the criteria of complex regional pain syndrome but whose signs and symptoms cannot be explained better by another diagnosis.

Many cases of complex regional pain syndrome occur after a forceful trauma to an arm or a leg. This can include a crushing injury, fracture or amputation. Other major and minor traumas — such as surgery, heart attacks, infections and even sprained ankles — can also lead to complex regional pain syndrome.

If you believe you have CRPS because of an accident or injury that was not your fault, you may be entitled to claim compensation. As leading CRPS solicitors the friendly team here at Brian Barr have vast experience of handling complex cases and can offer supportive, confidential advice.

To discuss your claim in further detail, call us for free on 0808 123 0003 or click here to fill in our online contact form.

We do not endorse any research, studies or sources mentioned within our blogs and comments. Furthermore, we do not endorse any medical advice provided, and would strongly recommend anyone seeking medical advice to contact their local healthcare provider.

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11 responses to “The difference between Type 1 & Type 2 CRPS

  1. I have a question. 15 years ago I sneezed in bed and caused a c-disc to pinch the nerve to my right arm. Over time my arm and hand didn’t heal right . 4 years ago I was finally diagnosed with CRPS. My pain doctor keeps saying CRPS 1. I know that the nerve to my right arm was damaged so why not type 2.
    I suffered a car accident which resulted with fibromyalgia as well and exasterbaited it.

  2. I developed CRPS in left lower leg and left foot after a laser spinal fusion at L5S1. I woke immediately the next morning with a left foot that felt like it did not belong to me and was asleep. The pain, cold feeling but at the same time a burning sensation as if it was having acid poured on it soon after. The pain has progressively gotten worse. I am on meds and have a SCS implanted and am still having issues. The pain is slowly moving up my left leg and it feels like someone is crushing the bone at times. It swells up by the end of the day. I cannot not wear shoes as anything on it burns even with the SCS and it swells up so bad by midday any shoe I could wear hurts. I found Crocs that do not touch my foot until midday when it swells and they help some. Now my right foot is having issues due to not being able to put full weight on my left foot. Do I have any recourse against the provider who did the fusion surgery and caused this issue as I had no problem until the morning I woke up after the surgery?

    1. Dear Mistee,

      I am sorry to hear about the deterioration in your health that may have been due to clinical negligence.

      Here at Brian Barr’s, we are a team of fully qualified solicitors that specialise in clinical negligence claims as just one of our areas of expertise.

      In order to consider your claim, we will need to obtain some more details from you. You can contact us either by filling out our online form or by calling us on 0161 737 9248. Alternatively you can send us your number and one of our team will contact you within the next 24 hours.

      Wishing you all the very best,

      Brian Barr Solicitors

  3. Is it possible to have both types? I had a severe injury to my left leg in July, 2013. Tibial-plateau fracture, total dislocation of the knee, crushed the popliteal artery requiring a graft, compartment syndrome, fracture of the tibia and fibula – all resulting in damage to the popliteal sciatic nerve among other injuries.
    I was diagnosed in March, 2014 with CRPS in my left foot. My symptoms, I feel, are a combination of both; foot drop, curled toes, shiny, swollen, burning, color changes, cold to touch often, sensitive to wind, sound, sheets…etc.

    1. Dear Jennifer,

      I’m sorry to hear that you are going through such a rough time.

      As we do not provide medical services, I would recommend directing your query to your local healthcare provider.

      Please feel free to contact us though if you require any legal assistance. You can do this either through our website inquiry form, or by calling us on 0161 737 9248.

      Wishing you all the very best,

      Brian Barr Solicitors

  4. I sustained a broken wrist and CRPS following a fall. I am in constant pain and cannot move my fingers properly and consequently I cannot use my hand properly.

  5. In 1994 my right wrist was severed, but they managed to reattach and restore function. I’m a right handed artist and have achieved my goals in my profession again! It has been a journey. However, swelling, burning episodes and severe pain was way out of control so they said I had rsd and a slac wrist and fused the entire wrist with a titanium plate. After about 10 years of high doses of neurontin, blocks, running to the freezer to put out the fire, tens units, biofeedback, and tm; it has now calmed down, except for an ocassional bump that will set it off. However, I’ve noticed that any injury, insult to my body (especially surgery on the right side of my body), causes pain to be unreal and difficult to manage unless I freeze the area, do tm and take an nsaid. Basically, this is the way I handle it. Just recently, I had a right tooth pulled and yep….pain unreal and after a week, I’m still icing down, using nsaid, and tm. Starting to get almost tolerable…..It’s been 25 years now and there are great days, but it takes time to desenitize the area and get back on your feet. Wish I could say it’s a piece of cake; but, we who suffer know it’s not (no magic pill, no quick relief, and really no end in sight); just take one day at a time, desenitize any way you can and try to keep moving forward. God is my strength and through him all things are possible and life can be beautiful, so embrace those good days and live them to the fullest! Good luck and Godspeed! BJ

    1. Dear Poppy,

      As our legal jurisdiction covers accidents that have occurred solely in England or Wales, we are unfortunately unable to assist you with your query.

      Wishing you all the very best,

      Brian Barr Solicitors

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