Traumatic Injuries and CRPS



Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Injuries

Unless you, or a loved one, have found yourself searching for answers to your unexplained, debilitating nerve pain, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Even if you have, you might know it by one of its 25 previous clinical names, such as causalgia or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, often abbreviated CRPS, is still not well-known or well-understood, even in the medical community. There is no universally accepted diagnostic test, cure, or explanation for why CRPS affects some people and not others. Yet CRPS is the source of the most severe pain ever observed by medical science — more severe than childbirth, cancer, broken bones, or amputation.

Battling CRPS may feel hopeless, or even make you question your sanity, but you should know that your condition is real, and you are not alone.

Recognizing the Signs

Part of what makes CRPS so difficult to diagnose is the fact that it typically develops as a result of preexisting injuries. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 90% of CRPS patients suffered prior physical trauma in the affected area. Other cases can occur after strokes, or completely spontaneously.

So if you’re part of the 90%, how can you know if what you’re experiencing is CRPS, or simply the pain of the injury itself? There are several signs, but the first ones are usually severity and duration.

CRPS is characterized by constant burning, throbbing, or squeezing pain, out of proportion with the underlying injury. As well as continuing past the expected healing period, CRPS may spread beyond the injury site, affecting entire limbs and, in rare cases, the patient’s trunk area.

If the nature, severity, and duration of your pain leads you suspect CRPS, watch also for these indicative symptoms:

  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Localized swelling
  • Localized spikes or drops in temperature
  • Skin discoloration, ranging from white and mottled to red or blue
  • Shiny or tender skin

Left untreated, CRPS can cause irreversible damage. Signs that the condition has progressed to this phase include:

  • Changes in hair and nail growth
  • Joint stiffness and immobility
  • Muscle spasms, tremors, weakness, and atrophy

Although CRPS is treated symptomatically and has no test of its own, your doctor may need to perform tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as a blood clot, Lyme disease, arthritis, or small fiber polyneuropathies, before coming to a diagnosis or prescribing treatment.

Frequent Causes of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Though the exact cause is unknown, a diagnosis of CRPS is generally associated with confirmed or suspected nerve damage. It’s been theorized that some people may be more susceptible to developing CRPS due to peripheral nerve abnormalities.

In other words, hyperactive nerve fibers connected with the blood vessels can make the nervous system as a whole more vulnerable to damage and malfunction. This would explain why some people can survive catastrophic accidents without developing CRPS, while others have developed it from as little as a medical needle stick.

Nevertheless, most cases of CRPS are caused by significant physical trauma, most commonly fractures or surgery of the hand, wrist, shoulder, foot, ankle, knee, or leg.

Soft tissue injuries, such as cuts, burns, and bruises, can also lead to CRPS, especially when there is damage to an extremity.

Coping with Invisible Pain

When the physical evidence doesn’t accurately reflect the severity of the symptoms, many patients have a hard time convincing others — including medical professionals — to take their conditions seriously. The problem is even worse for women, who make up over 75% of CRPS patients, and who are routinely under-diagnosed and under-prescribed for pain symptoms identical to those of their male peers.

In many cases, this dismissal of your pain is not just frustrating but dangerous. Early diagnosis is crucial to CRPS recovery. To preserve function and prevent permanent damage to your limb, you will need to begin physical or occupational therapy as soon as possible.

With 62% of CRPS patients reporting frequent interference with their jobs, and 86% reporting interference with their mobility, you will likely need support in caring for yourself, re-learning occupational tasks, or transitioning between occupations altogether. No matter how tough you are, pain affects everything from your relationships to your productivity to your participation in therapy, so you may also want to discuss management options such as opioids, anti-inflammatory drugs, or spinal surgery.

While the symptoms of CRPS are not “in your head,” maintaining your mental health is essential to your recovery as well. You may need psychiatric treatment for secondary symptoms such as depression and anxiety, which can arise from and interact with CRPS, deteriorating your overall wellbeing.

What to Do If You’ve Developed CRPS after a Trauma

If you suspect that your symptoms are no longer normal for the severity of your injury, don’t wait and assume that the pain will go away. Discuss your concerns with your doctor immediately.

Always remember that no one can feel your pain but you. If someone else — even a doctor — tells you that there’s nothing to worry about, and your body tells you otherwise, trust your body. Seek a second opinion, or consider reaching out to the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association for help.

You will also need to reach out to a legal expert, like those at the Stoddard Firm. Where others may only see the obvious scars of your accident or surgery, we recognize the invisible impact as well. Our experience enables us to explain your condition to judges and juries, so that your settlement reflects the true nature of what you’re going through, and the lifelong expenses you may face as a result.

Reach out to us online or at 678-RESULT to set up a free consultation on how we can help.


Top Accident Questions, Answered.

Do I have a case?

If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you could have a personal injury case. Every situation is different, so there’s no way to know if you have a case without consulting with a qualified personal injury attorney. If you are badly injured or a loved one has died, we are happy to speak with you and investigate the matter at no charge.

How do I pick the right attorney?

You’ll want to look for several qualities when choosing who will represent you. Your attorney should meet with you instead of sending an investigator, and he/she should be available throughout the process instead of having you consistently talk to a legal assistant. Your attorney should have a low number of cases so he/she can devote significant time to you and your case. Your attorney should have experience handling cases with facts similar to yours, and your attorney should have a proven track record with similar claims. Your attorney should also be able to devote significant money to your case so that he/she can hire experts, travel the country finding witnesses, and depose whomever is necessary to achieve justice. It’s also important to make sure your attorney is the right fit on a personal level, which is why you should take advantage of a free consultation.

What do I need to bring with me to the consultation?

For your free consultation, bring all relevant documents that you’ve collected regarding your case. If there are police reports, bills or correspondence from insurance companies, you’ll want to bring those items to the consultation so an attorney can learn as much about your case as possible.

How much time do I have to file a lawsuit?

There is a time limit on how long a person has after an injury to begin a lawsuit. This window is called a statute of limitations. For most personal injury cases in Georgia, the statute of limitations is two years from the time the injury was suffered. However, there are exceptions and subtleties that might change the amount of time you are afforded. Sometimes the period can be as short as 6 months, and other times it can be much longer than two years. Determining the statute of limitations requires a detailed analysis of the facts of your case.

What do your services cost?

A consultation with the Stoddard Law Firm is free. In most circumstances, we earn no fee unless we win your case. If your claim is successful, we take a percentage of the recovered amount.

What has to be proven in a premises liability case?

A successful premises liability claim must show that a hazardous condition exposed you to an unreasonable risk of harm and that the property owner failed to exercise reasonable care to maintain a safe premises. Common examples include slippery floors, unstable structures, broken handrails, stairs not built to code, scalding apartment shower water, natural gas explosions, electrical shocks, and improperly fenced swimming pools. There are several factors that can make or break a case, which is why it’s important to work with an experienced lawyer who can thoroughly investigate the situation.

How is negligent security different from premises liability?

Negligent security is a type of premises liability. These claims arise when a person is assaulted on someone else’s property by a third-party. Owners of apartment complexes, hotels, gas stations, and other retail establishments can sometimes be held liable if their inadequate security practices contributed to the attack. Such practices include failure to warn of prior crimes, inadequate lighting, broken access gates, broken locks, and failure to provide security guards.

How can an attorney help me?

Whether your injury was mild or severe, proving fault for premises liability can be a complex process. The standard of care owed by the property owner is made up of many factors and, in some cases, the hazardous conditions may no longer exist. A skilled premises liability attorney knows how to gather and preserve the necessary evidence – and how to defend you against accusations that you should have known about the dangerous condition.

How do I choose an attorney?

There are a lot of lawyers out there, so it’s important to select one that you feel comfortable with and who inspires confidence. Choose one who has experience with the type of claim you have, is qualified, has a good reputation in the legal community, and seems dedicated to helping you win your case.

How do I pay an attorney?

The Stoddard Firm handles litigation on a contingency basis. This means we accept a percentage of the amount we recover for you. If your claim does not have a successful resolution, we do not collect any fee. We are also pleased to offer free consultations.


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