The chronic pain that won’t go away: CRPS

Posted 02 Oct, 2017
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CRPS is a rare neurological condition that causes unending agony and misery. But now a special implant offers hope to sufferers.

What’s it like to have a pain that just won’t go away? Complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS, causes exactly that, and it’s as hard to diagnose as it is to understand. It can strike at any age, affects both men and women – and may be more common than previously thought.

But with no specific tests to diagnose CRPS, doctors just have to look out for patients with an intense burning pain that goes beyond what would be expected from their injury – anything from a fracture to a stroke. What’s causing the pain isn’t this “triggering” injury anymore – it’s the complex communication system between nerves and the brain, which means that even after an injury has healed, the pain persists.

Clare Strickland is 47 and knows firsthand the debilitating effect that CRPS can have. She lives in Kent and 15 years ago she slipped down two steps and broke the big toe on her right foot. “Before that, I was just a normal single mum,” she says. “I worked part-time, went swimming three times a week, did the school run, the usual stuff. But that one slip – it changed everything.”

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