What are the causes of CRPS?


Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition which causes pain and other life-changing symptoms. CRPS usually affects a person’s limbs, such as an arm or a leg, and although typically triggered by a traumatic injury to a limb, the pain does not subside as would usually happen during a ‘normal’ recovery.

There are two types of CRPS, both with similar signs and symptoms, but different causes:

  • Type 1 CRPS: Also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), this type occurs after an illness or injury that didn’t directly damage the nerves in your affected limb. About 90% of people with CRPS have type 1.
  • Type 2 CRPS: Once referred to as causalgia, this type has symptoms similar to those of type 1. But type 2 CRPS occurs after a distinct nerve injury.


Causes of CRPS

CRPS is a chronic condition. Anyone can develop CRPS following an accident or injury but it is still unknown why some people go on to develop the condition following trauma while others will go on to make a full recovery.

The most common actions or activities that lead to CRPS are:

  • Stroke – up to 20% of people who have a stroke may develop central post-stroke pain (CPSP). This problem may occur if structures in the brain that interpret pain are affected by the stroke.
  • Heart attack – any major trauma can lead to CRPS.
  • Car accident – CRPS is often due to an injury to the peripheral and central nervous systems as a result of forceful trauma, often associated to a car crash or motor accident.
  • Fractures – in particular, wrist fractures. Nerves can become injured from a displaced or splintered bone, or pressure from a tight cast.
  • Surgery – surgery always comes with potential side effects. A surgical incision, retractors, positioning, sutures, or post-operative scarring can cause nerve injury and CRPS can develop from this.
  • Sprains and strains – connective tissues ruptures, or the causal trauma, can permit excess movement of a joint that stretches nearby nerves.
  • Cuts or infections – although seemingly minor, burns or cuts are the visible signs of injuries that may also have damaged underlying nerves and could have a long-term impact on your health.
  • Limb immobilization (often from casting) – in addition to rarely pressing on nerves and restricting blood flow to the hands and feet, casts force prolonged disuse of a limb and deprive it of sensory input.


CRPS flare ups


In most cases, CRPS is triggered by nerve trauma or injury to the affected limb that damages the thinnest sensory and autonomic nerve fibres. Sufferers will often experience flare-ups that can last for a few minutes or a few days.

A flare-up is an increase in pain and other symptoms above the level that is usual for you and CRPS flare ups can be triggered by:

  • stress
  • illness
  • fatigue
  • overdoing it
  • weather changes
  • extreme emotions
  • changes to medication

For some people flare-ups can start for no obvious reason so it is important to understand coping strategies and find out what works best for you in order to mitigate the pain.


CRPS and causation


Although CRPS usually develops after a trauma such as a stroke, car accident or an injury, sometimes the lack of causality can make it difficult to make a connection between CRPS and accident trauma. Not only does this lead to frustration and ability to cope with the conduction, but without the cause, compensation can be hard to recover. That is why it is important to speak to an expert who will take your condition seriously and understand your options.



If you are suffering from fibromyalgia, CRPS, or any chronic pain condition as a result of an accident that was not your fault, and even if you have an existing claim, get in touch with Brian Barr Solicitors to see if we can assist. It is simple and hassle free to move your claim to Brian Barr Solicitors who are experts in dealing with chronic pain litigation. Call us today on 0161 737 9248 or visit our website (www.brianbarr.co.uk) to find out more.


We do not endorse any research, studies or sources mentioned within our blogs and comments. The blog is for information purposes only as we are not medical professionals. We do not endorse any medical advice provided and would strongly recommend anyone seeking medical advice to contact their local healthcare provider before any changes to treatment and / or management of your condition is undertaken.


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