What is Sudeck’s atrophy?
Sudeck’s atrophy or Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a condition in which you feel intense burning pain, stiffness, swelling, and disability (often after an injury). You may also notice other symptoms in the affected area like discoloration or a sensation of warm and dry and then cold and moist skin. These symptoms are caused by a disturbance in your sympathetic nerve system. Sometimes it is a condition difficult to diagnose, but nowadays professionals know how to treat it and the importance of lymphatic drainage in the relief of symptoms and treatment of this disease.
So, what is the sympathetic nervous system?
Your sympathetic nervous system is the latter network of nerves that controls many of your body functions. For instance, nerves in the skin are responsible for operating the opening and closing of blood vessels, and controlling sweat glands.
It is also responsible for what professionals call “fight-or-flight” response. For example, when you are in danger your body triggers a physical stress response that prepares you to either fight or flee the scene. This event is driven by the sympathetic nervous system, a normally harmonised network of brain structures, nerves and hormones.
What parts of the body can be affected by CRPS?
Sudeck’s atrophy most often affects your hands, arms, legs or feet.
It affects 5% of people who suffer a traumatic injury. It is frequently seen among women between the ages of 40 and 60, but sometimes can occur in children and the elderly.
What are the causes?
There are two types of Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS); both can be tied to injury, surgery or illness. However the exact cause of CRPS is unknown. Some experts explain it as a “short circuit” that causes over-activity in the sympathetic nerve system.
Other causes can be:
- It is associated with medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, and pressure on a nerve, infections, cancer, neck problems, stroke, or heart attack.
- It also can occur spontaneously.
- Commonly it follows trauma (fractures, ligament and muscle strains, nerve or soft tissue injuries) which may seem trivial.
- Prolonged immobilisation following the injury.
What is the best treatment for CRPS and how can lymphatic drainage help?
- In most cases, a multidisciplinary approach is required to fill a patient’s needs. It is normal to employ a combination of various treatments, such as physiotherapy , lymphatic drainage, spinal cord stimulation, and medications to reduce pain.
- Also, active exercise that emphasises the normal use of the affected limb is essential for permanent relief of this condition. Mobility is always better than rest to gradually increase the motion of the affected limb and preserve joint movement, otherwise stiffness may progress.
- The use of lymphatic drainage is essentially aimed at eliminating the interstitial fluid and optimising its evacuation. It reduces edema and swelling, improving mobility to avoid the use of support devices like crutches and normalising the tactile sensitivity of the patient.
A combined treatment is the best alternative for this syndrome; however, further investigation is needed to determine what causes it.
Many of our patients who suffer this condition have reported great improvement of pain and edema relief in the affected limb, with a significant reduction of swelling after lymphatic drainage treatment.
- Collier, J., Longmore M., Brown TD. Oxford Handbook of Clinical Specialties 5th Ed.
- Murtagh, J. General Practice. Second Ed. McGraw-Hill