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Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

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Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) or Complex Regional Pain SyndromeWhen hiring a workers’ compensation law firm in Illinois it is important to have a firm that has experience with your specific injury. The lawyers we recommend almost exclusively handle workers’ compensation claims in Illinois so they have years of experience in representing workers that have RSD which is also known as complex regional pain syndrome. Hiring one of these lawyers (or someone you find on your own that has a similar profile) can greatly increase your chances of obtaining the maximum benefits available to you under Illinois law.

What is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)?

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD) is also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). It is a chronic neurological syndrome that may cause the following

  1. severe burning pain
  2. pathological changes in bone and skin
  3. excessive sweating
  4. tissue swelling
  5. extreme sensitivity to touch

The best way to describe RSD or CRPS is when there is an injury and it does not heal as it normally would. A large or dramatic injury is not required for this to take place. After the injury the nervous system simply does not function as it normally would. There is no specific laboratory test that can diagnose RSD/CRPS. A doctor must look at your current and past medical history, conduct a physical examination and consider a number of factors to determine whether or not CRPS/RSD is a possibility. A diagnosis of RSD/CRPS can be made when someone has a history of trauma to the affected area, along with pain that is disproportionate to the inciting event, plus one or more of the following:

  1. Abnormal function of the sympathetic nervous system.
  2. Swelling
  3. Movement disorders
  4. Changes in tissue growth (dystrophy and atrophy)

The two types of complex regional pain syndrome commonly referred to as Type I and Type II.

Type I, which is referred to as RSD, involves cases where the nerve injury cannot be immediately identified, whereas Type II involves cases where a distinct major nerve injury can be identified. Another name for Type II is Causalgia.

Type I can be described by starting with an initiating event, or a cause of immobilization which results in a continuing pain, with which the pain is disproportionate to any inciting event. This is followed by some type of edema and changes in skin blood flow (skin color changes, skin temperature changes) or abnormal sudomotor activity where the pain is located.

Type II can be described as the presence of continuing pain after a nerve injury, not necessarily limited to the distribution of the injured nerve. This is also followed by some time of edema and changes in skin blood flow or abnormal sudo-motor activity where the pain is located.

Treatment of RSD

At this time there is no cure for RSD/CRPS. The main goal of any treatment is to reduce the pain and prevent the situation form worsening.

1. Medications

A doctor will consider the following factors when deciding what medications to use:

  1. Constant pain
  2. Muscle cramps
  3. Inflammatory pain
  4. Pain due to recent injury
  5. Spontaneous pain
  6. Sympathetically maintained pain (SMP)
  7. Pain causing sleep problems

Many times doctors have to use more than one medication or increase current medications in order to control the pain; a patient may have to try a sequence of medications before determining what drug works best for him or her.

2. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is one way of helping individuals that suffer from CRPS. Physical therapists can educate patients on how to use the affected part of their body. Many times applying pressure can help reduce the pain. Physical therapists can also recommend other options such as hydrotherapy, massage and even pool therapy.

3. Sympathetic nerve blocks

Chronic pain conditions often involve malfunctions of the sympathetic nerves. These nerves regulate blood flow, sweating, and glandular function. Blocks of these sympathetic nerves can provide important diagnostic information, and can also lead to a reduction of the pain. For example, blocking the sympathetic nerves that lie just in front of the spine in the lower neck can help with pain conditions involving the face, arms and hands. In addition, the lumbar sympathetic nerves that lie in front of the spine in the lower back can be blocked to help with pain conditions of the legs and feet.

4. Chemical and Surgical Sympathectomy

If there is a significant decrease in pain following the sympathetic block, the patient is said to have sympathetically maintained pain (SMP). If there is not a significant decrease in pain, the patient has sympathetically independent pain (SIP). Only patients with SMP should be considered for a sympathectomy. A sympathectomy is a permanent block. Some doctors look at this as a last option, as it is a relatively invasive procedure. There are potential complications and other options should be discussed with a doctor. is a free service, run by Illinois lawyers, to help people with any Illinois legal matter including reflex sympathetic systrophy that is a result of work activities. We know many RSD lawyers in Chicago, Waukegan, Wheaton RSD attorneys, Decatur, Peoria, Rockford, Belleville and all of Illinois. If you would like a referral to a lawyer that will talk to you for free, please contact us.