What is RSD?

RSD/CRPS is a chronic pain condition that is believed to be the result of the nervous system being dysfunctional. It is not thought to have a single cause, but rather multiple causes producing similar symptoms. Recent studies have shown there may be other underlining conditions that accompany RSD/CRPS.

Facts about RSD

RSD/CRPS is the number one health condition that leads to suicide. This is due to the continued pain, and lack of support and understanding.


RSD/CRPS ranks the highest on the MCGILL pain scale. The pain RSD/CRPS causes is higher than child birth and the amputation of a limb.


There is a desperate need for more research, awareness, and education. Thousands of people that suffer with RSD/CRPS are misdiagnosed each year. Most people see 6-7 doctors before they are correctly diagnosed.


Myths about RSD

RSD/CRPS can only be present in the extremities- It has been found that RSD/CRPS can spread to any part of the body such as the back, internal organs, eyes, and neck. If a doctor is insisting that RSD/CRPS can only be in the extremities, please seek other medical care. Depression causes RSD/CRPS- The RSD/CRPS comes first then a patient may develop depression. Dealing with the pain and judgment by doctors, teachers, friends, and family can bring on depression. Please don't let anyone tell you that you have RSD because you are depressed. RSD/CRPS is rare- There are millions of people that suffer with RSD/CRPS, and more are being diagnosed daily. With continued awareness and education we are hoping to be able to reach out to those not yet diagnosed who are suffering with RSD. It may feel "rare" because it is not well known by our peers and the medical field.


Symptoms of RSD

  • Increased sensitivity
  • Severe burning pain
  • Pain that becomes more intense
  • Pain that is continuous
  • Irreversible changes to skin and bone
  • Stiffness and swelling in affected extremity
  • Decreased ability to move affected extremity
  • Changes in hair growth patterns (increased/decreased)
  • Nails which are cracked, brittle, grooved, spotty
  • Skin color changes (blothcy, purple, pale, red)
  • Skin texture changes (shiny, thin, sweaty)
  • Skin temperature changes (warmer or cooler than opposing extremity)
  • Softened bones
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Muscle spasm
  • Contractions of muscles and tendons (limbs may be twisted)

Triggers for RSD

There can be numerous triggers for RSD including:

  • Injury or trauma
  • Surgery
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Infection
  • Shingles

In an estimated one-third of patients with RSD, there is no associated trigger.


RSD Diagnosis

Diagnosing RSD/CRPS proves to be very difficult because of the many symptoms that can overlap with other conditions. The history of the patient and a clinical diagnosis is a must. Finding a Doctor that is knowledgeable about RSD/CRPS and is current with new research and treatments can be discouraging. If they are not willing to listen, it may be time to seek out another doctor. There is no specific blood test or other diagnostic test for RSD.

RSD Treatment

Treatment focuses on relieving painful symptoms associated with RSD and preventing atrophy. Treatment can include:


  • Physical therapy - Warm water therapy is showing very positive results with RSD/CRPS. Some land and occupational therapy proves to be too much for this condition. RSD/CRPS is NOT a "no pain, no gain" condition.
  • Sympathetic nerve blocks
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Intrathecal drug pumps
  • Oral Medications