Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain syndrome associated with the imbalance and malfunction of the autonomic nervous system. Medically speaking, it is the most painful disease known to man – rating higher than both childbirth and amputation on the McGill Pain Index. Unlike childbirth, though, the pain experienced from CRPS is relentless and unending. Tragically, this condition has been dubbed the “suicide disease” due to the severity of the pain it causes those who suffer.
Some of the most characteristic signs and symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) are:
- increased sensitivity to touch and cold
- changes in skin color (it can get red, white and blotchy, or even blue)
- alterations in nail and hair growth
- swelling of the affected area
- changes in skin temperature (it can be either very cold or hot)
- constant throbbing or burning pain in the affected area
- joint stiffness or even damage
- reduced ability to move the affected limb
- muscle weakness, spasms, or even loss
- changes in skin texture (it may turn shiny, thin, or tender)
Those signs and symptoms may vary from one patient to another and may evolve as time goes on. Typically, the first ones to appear are pain, redness, swelling, hypersensitivity, and changes in skin temperature.
We know two types of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS):
Type 1: The cause of CRPS type 1 derives from a relatively innocent accident (such as spraining an ankle) that had no identified nerve injury. This kind of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome used to be known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD).
Type 2: CRPS type 2 usually develops after surgery, a severe infection, or bone breaking. In this case, a nerve injury can be clearly determined. This kind of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome used to be referred to as causalgia.
In the past, causalgia and reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) were strongly distinguished, but now there is an ongoing discussion if such a classification makes sense in the first place because CRPS type 1 patients sometimes have nerve damage confirmed as well. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the distinction between those two types will disappear at a certain point.
Many CRPS patients suffer for years before they finally figure out what is wrong with them. Some never even receive an official diagnosis. The typical CRPS patient has been down a long road and has seen many, many doctors. Sadly, there is a general lack of awareness and understanding surrounding this condition. In fact, many of our patients tell us that their physicians had never even heard of CRPS. This lack of understanding has resulted in treatment options that typically do not provide any kind of real, sustained relief for CRPS patients.
At this time, the most frequently used pain relief treatments and techniques for CRPS include:
Sympathetic nerve Blocks:
During a sympathetic nerve block, anesthetic medication is injected into your nerve near your spine to numb the pain. Most Complex Regional Pain Syndrome patients we see have had multiple nerve blocks, and we find that it causes scarring in the tissue, which is an added complication that you have to deal with later on.
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic. Its job is to disconnect the brain from the pain that you’re feeling. What we tend to see with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome patients is that it does work for some people short-term, but infusions must be repeated, as the results are not permanent. The problem with this (and many other “maintenance” forms of treatment) is that while this is happening, that fire (the CRPS) is burning hotter and hotter and hotter. Eventually, you’re unable to control the pain with the ketamine. Ketamine has a ceiling, CRPS does not. Ketamine also has numerous notable side-effects.
Calmare therapy disrupts the pain signal by “scrambling” it. This treatment applies a low-amperage electric signal that is made of codes recognized and normally used by the brain. The new code “tricks” the brain to read a discernible non-pain code. Calmare Therapy is a more non-invasive approach, but it’s still interrupting the pain signal rather than getting to the root of CRPS. We’ve had several instances of patients saying their pain spread after getting Calmare, so there is a risk involved.
Spinal Cord Stimulators:
Spinal cord stimulators are devices that are surgically placed under your skin, sending an electric current to your spinal cord that attempts to block neuropathic pain. The electric pulses created by the stimulator aim to mask the pain signals from reaching your brain. We find that they are not very effective in treating CRPS. They can help with the pain, but they cause lots of scarring around the leads, and for many people, they don’t work at all. We have often seen that getting an SCS causes the CRPS to spread.
It is also important to note that once the stimulator is inserted, the damage it may cause cannot be fully undone. They can take the stimulator out, but the leads cannot be taken out due to scarring around them.
Many CRPS patients rely on opioids, or other prescription drugs just to get through the day. In addition to unwanted side effects and dangers from narcotics, when you take opioids (or any type of prescription medication), you’re taking an unhealthy body and adding more and more chemicals to it. Eventually, all of this becomes a mass that your body that is additionally weakened by the CRPS can’t bear.
Pharmaceutical Drugs (Gabapentin, Lyrica, NSAIDS, Naltrexone, etc.):
Pharmaceutical drugs can take the edge off for some people, but many of them come with a host of unwanted side effects, and most patients will build up a tolerance to them. Again, drugs have a ceiling – CRPS does not. When it comes to pharmaceutical drugs, the bottom line is that you must advocate for yourself, exercise caution, and do your research before you decide to start taking any drug.
These treatment options share one commonality:
They all attempt to interrupt, scramble, or numb the pain signals. These are all pain management techniques – designed to manage your pain, but not to provide a solution to it. For CRPS patients, the need for pain control is very obvious, but simply controlling your pain is not a long-term solution.
We have found the most effective approach to treating Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
Therefore, we have found that the most effective approach to treating this condition is to treat the central nervous system itself.
Over the years, we have introduced numerous tools and techniques in order to perfect our program and help our CRPS patients achieve healing. Our approach is focused on nervous system rehabilitation consisting of vagus nerve stimulation, neuromuscular re-education with patented technology, magnetic resonance technology, viral and bacterial analysis, and treatments, and liver detoxification. These modalities are designed to enhance one another synergistically to restore balance to the central nervous system. When the nervous system is given the tools that it needs to achieve a state of balance once again, signs and symptoms of the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome tend to resolve. You are not broken beyond repair. Your body is amazing and capable of healing!
We have seen firsthand how enormously important it is to provide an uplifting environment for our CRPS patients to heal. It is crucial that you receive treatment from doctors and therapists who understand your medical condition and truly care about you as a person. This loving, supportive network is another component of treatment that sets your experience at our CRPS clinic apart. We operate like a big family – probably very different from any other medical experience you have had. When you arrive here, you are surrounded by people who get it. Our waiting room is a sacred place where encouragement and understanding abounds. You will be hugged.
You will shed tears. You will celebrate victories. You will make life-long friendships with people who are so fiercely fighting the same battles with CRPS that you are. You finally see and know that you are not alone.
Know that there is hope for you regardless of how long you have had CRPS or what you have tried before. We have seen patients with very recent diagnoses and patients who have suffered from this condition for over 30 years. Many of our CRPS patients have exhausted every avenue before finally finding us.
We know how easy it can be to lose hope when you are living in agony, and there seems to be no end in sight. We know that many of you spend your days feeling like you aren’t living, but merely existing. We know how insanely heartbreaking and hard it is, and we commend you for fighting. Please know and believe this, regardless of what anyone tells you: CRPS can be conquered. It is possible to thrive again. Every single CRPS patient who recovers should bring you hope. Their bodies are no more special or capable than your own. Healing is possible for you, too. Your body was intricately and magnificently designed to recover and repair.
We were extremely concerned with the fact that 2 out of 10 people with complex regional pain syndrome diagnoses are told that this disease is not curable. Even if it’s a minority, it’s still one-fifth of the patients who find out that they are doomed, and there is no hope for them to get rid of this extreme pain in the affected area of their body. For us, every single person matters equally, so we have developed a medical therapy that deals even with the most challenging cases of CRPS. Remember that even if the signs and symptoms are severe, you can still be cured and come back to normal life. Many doctors may tell you that there are only ketamine infusions and spinal cord stimulators left for you, but we know that the affected limb can be treated. You need to know that there is someone out there who believes in your full recovery and knows how to help your organism to heal itself.
Keep in mind that your body is smart enough to produce hair on your body, while no scientist in the world has ever managed to grow it out of nothing. It shows that your organism is more intelligent and developed than even the most modern technologies. It just needs proper support to work correctly and set you free from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. A specialist needs to identify what is blocking your body from recovering and use appropriate techniques to get rid of those obstacles.
Our doctors work with passion, and they are delighted to provide patients with severe signs and symptoms with proper help, even if they already lost any hope. Our innovative methods are based on vagus nerve stimulation. Our founder, Dr. Katinka van der Merwe, often recalls the first time she has used it on a patient. He was a Hispanic man in his 30s whose changes in skin were so harsh that he felt as if his whole body was on fire and even found it hard to eat because his digestive tract was burning. After performing just 10 minutes of the vagus nerve procedure, he felt that his pain’s intensity dropped from 10 to 6, which generally may not be that impressive, but for patients with CRPS, it makes a huge difference. It made him full of hope that there is a chance for recovery. Then, Dr. Katinka decided that she would continue helping people with CRPS and make them believe that there is a chance for them to get their normal lives back.
We consider it to be of utter importance to present the examples of people who have experienced a great improvement in their illness because it makes other patients believe that they can do it too. We always publish a lot of descriptions of serious cases of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome being cured so that people searching for information on their disease online could get the message that they should not give up and should keep on fighting for a full recovery.
Remember that you have loving people around you who care about you and want you to be healthy more than anything. Hence, it is always worth trying, not only for yourself, but also for your beloved ones – for the parents, spouses, partners, siblings, children, or friends. You were born for a reason, and your suffering can be meaningful because when you recover, you will become stronger for any other obstacles that may appear on your way. Also, bear in mind that people with painful experiences tend to appreciate life more, so after recovering, you will see the world from a different perspective. What is more, you will serve as an example to other people with CRPS who stopped believing in any improvement of their condition that everything is possible so they should never give up. Life is the most beautiful and precious gift you have ever received, so please hold on to it!
Some people are wondering why any other clinic in the world does not offer such methods as us. Our medical approach is very complex. It has been developed and improved over many years, and now it includes over fifteen different therapies, adapted to a particular medical condition of a CRPS patient. They usually take around twelve weeks, and during that time, we target all the aspects of the nerve injury, and we bombard the whole system with every kind of support possible. One of the crucial steps is to determine the cause of CRPS in a particular case. Then, we need to eliminate the blocks that prevent your organism from natural healing and to strengthen your body so that it could effectively fight the disease. It not only includes physical energy that will make it possible for you to get up from the wheelchair at last but also with the emotional strength. We want you to leave our CRPS clinic with the certainty that you can get your life back. Also, it is vital for us to let you know that even if another injury happens to the CRPS previously affected area, your body will be able to recover from it on its own. You should never think that your body has let you down by not defending itself earlier – after our medical treatment, you will know that even if sometimes it needs support, it can be victorious sooner or later.
Some people prefer not to refer to it as “being cured,” but just “being in remission,” but it does not matter how you name it. What matters is that the former patients of our clinic do not have relapses even if they experience another nerve injury or, for instance, a surgery. Their bodies are strengthened enough to deal with extreme situations and don’t let Complex Regional Pain Syndrome strike back.
Even though in medical schools, future doctors are told not to get emotionally attached to the patients (because of the psychological impact a potential failure may have), Dr. Katinka is one of the people who cannot emotionally disconnect for her CRPS patients. When their signs and symptoms don’t improve at the first attempt, she tries to search for other solutions to treat Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – she doesn’t give up easily. Together with her team, she always does her utmost to help every patient and tries all the methods that can heal the affected limb and set it free from chronic pain.
Sadly, many doctors do not want to learn new techniques, and they’re okay with the methods they use, even if they are not entirely successful and do not manage to help 10 out of 10 patients with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Nevertheless, there are specialists who decide to become part of our mission, and for some of them, it is a deep spiritual journey to get to know our methods of treating CRPS. At first, it often seems very odd to them because it goes against the Newtonian training that they were used to. Sometimes they even use the outdated terminology and still refer to the two types of CRPS as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and causalgia. Even though these are just names, it shows that their knowledge needs to be updated. However, as time goes on they are gradually more and more familiar with our medical approach and understand that to relieve the symptoms (such as changed skin color or skin temperature, pain, or burning) in the affected area and finally cure the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a doctor needs to have a holistic medical approach.
Please never think that you are doomed with your CRPS diagnosis and that your affected limb will never be set free from the severe pain. Our medical treatment brings hope to CRPS patients and lets them retrieve their lives. As a result, they do not have to worry about their future anymore, and their beloved ones can celebrate their small victories together with them. No matter what the condition of the CRPS affected area of your body, don’t lose hope because we are here to help you, even if you think you have already tried everything to get rid of the pain and other symptoms of this syndrome.
-Dum Spiro Spero – While I breathe, I hope.