Early detection and effective treatment key to recovery from CRPS

Woman in pain hunched over forward in pain
Australian Dental Association
13 May 2024
7 min read

Breakthrough research led by NeuRA’s Centre for Pain IMPACT and conducted in partnership with the University of South Australia, has found that an 80% significant recovery is possible within 12-18 months from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) through early diagnosis and best-practice treatment. 

An often-lifelong debilitating condition, CRPS, a multi-system disorder triggered by trauma such as surgery or a fracture with severe pain localised to a single limb, typically comes with limited treatment options. 

The groundbreaking research has found "that the best approach to treatment includes education about CRPS, medicines to control pain, physical rehabilitation, and psychological support, if needed” which NeuRA’s lead researcher Michael Ferraro says is a paradigm shift for understanding the condition. 

“Complex regional pain syndrome is a rare pain disorder. It’s characterised by intense pain and changes in muscle, sensation, skin, bone, and nerves, and often severely limits a person’s ability to work or engage in social activities,” Ferraro says. 

“Because the disorder is so rare, there is little evidence to inform effective treatment.  

“In this research we challenge the prevailing notion that CRPS is a lifelong burden.  

“By reviewing and consolidating the latest developments in understanding CRPS, we’ve found that unlike previous theories, recovery is likely for most people with CRPS, and may be more likely with early diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment approach to match the multi-system nature of the disorder." 

Co-researcher and pain expert, UniSA’s Professor Lorimer Moseley notes that the findings are "a major step towards better understanding CRPS". 

“While more research is needed, our review highlights that biological and psychosocial factors are involved, and successful management of the disorder should target these factors. 

“The next steps will require national and international networks of researchers to test the most promising treatments in clinical trials.” 

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