Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is a type of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) in which the patient feels persistent pain in a limb or extremity following a major trauma, heart attack, stroke, or difficult surgery — but with no direct injury to a nerve. Aside from pain, other symptoms include sensitivity, limited mobility, changes in appearance of the limb (skin color, texture, hair, nails), differences in temperature from other body parts, swelling, muscle cramps, trembling, burning, and stiffness. Researchers are still trying to understand exactly what causes this disorder, but it is believed that it has to do with the body’s response to injury and the patient’s nervous system response.
A treatment plan for reflex sympathetic dystrophy will include some combination of medication (including anti-inflammatory medication, pain relievers, anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, steroids, and osteoporosis medicines), topical creams, pain-relieving injections, various physical therapies, electrical nerve and spine stimulation, and intraspinal pain management therapy.
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