Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Is a painful condition of the arm, hand, leg or foot that occurs after an injury or trauma such as a fracture. Symptoms vary and may last months or years. Early diagnosis and intervention is essential for a quick recovery. RSD is most likely to occur after an injury that did not heal correctly or a minor trauma to a limb after which the body segment was immobilised for an extended period.


The symptoms and signs of CRPS may include:

  • Burning pain in the arm, hand, leg or foot
  • Pins and needles sensation in the area injured and surrounding areas on the limb
  • Pain that changes in intensity but often feels much worse than may be expected
  • Muscle wasting from disuse
  • Tremors or spasms
  • Stiffness
  • Changes to the skin, hair and nails on the affected limb
  • Temperature changes in comparison to the other limb (very warm and sweaty or cold/clammy)


Early diagnosis is vital to prevent delayed recovery ( months to years). Seek assessment from a musculo-skeletal physiotherapist or Sports Physiotherapist, Gp, or Rheumatologist or Orthopaedic Surgeon for diagnosis


1. Medical Management for evaluation of bone density changes and pain management

2. Physiotherapy Management involving:

  • de-sensitization of the affected limb
  • restoration of movement
  • weight transference
  • restoration of function

Below is a photo on a foot with RSD following trauma to 5th toe

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