One of the worst diseases you can have is something called CRPS, or complex regional pain syndrome. Think of CRPS like bringing a can of gasoline to your pain bonfire. Or maybe better said, CRPS is like an accelerator stuck to the floorboard of the pain car without any working brakes. It’s awful. This year I am very thankful for a CRPS patient I treated who sent some kind words yesterday. You see, as a physician, you do all of this because you want to help people. So when you get an e-mail like this, it makes your Turkey Day. I’m also thankful for the new CRPS treatments that we can now offer.
What Is CRPS?
CRPS stands for complex regional pain syndrome. It used to be called RSD for reflex sympathetic dystrophy. You really wouldn’t wish CRPS on your worst enemy. In the case of this patient’s injury, she had a nerve in her hand that was injured by an IV start. This caused the nerve pain to spin out of control without the usual “pain brakes” that help naturally manage pain. This is called CRPS type 2.
With CRPS, it’s not only the nerve area that becomes painful but everything around it. The whole area is on fire, so much so that many CRPS patients can’t touch the skin as it’s too painful. Even wearing clothes or going out in the cold is too much.
New CRPS Treatments
The truly awful thing about CRPS is that there are few ways to treat the disease. Medications are only marginally helpful, and many patients end up hooked on narcotics because these drugs can dull the fire a bit. Injections don’t help that much, and if they do, it’s usually temporary. Sometimes electrical stimulators are installed inside the patient’s body, but they help only a little. Finally, there is no surgery that helps the disease.
Our approaches are very different and represent new CRPS treatments. In this patient’s case, I carefully used her platelet growth factors (our 4th-generation platelet lysate) to break up scar tissue around the damaged nerve. The goal of this procedure is to get rid of the scar that might be placing constant pressure on the nerve as well as provide growth factors that can aid in nerve repair and grow new blood vessels. I also used a similar treatment on the nerves in the neck.
How did the patient do? This was her Thanksgiving e-mail to me yesterday:
“I know this is a week when we reflect on the many things/people we are thankful for.
I wanted you to know how thankful I am for you and your team.
I was reflecting on how much I dreaded last thanksgiving. The cold is one of my triggers. My boyfriends’ family hosts an extended family event that’s outside. Traveling to my parents where it’s always cold. Outside in the weather. I realized this week, although it’s cold in NC and my hand is not 100% happy, it’s significantly better this year.
Now, I have had a few rough days and I’m being cautious until we head back in January. The last thing I wish is to trigger regression or awaken the crps dragon as I call it. 🙂
I participated in a 50 days of thankfulness. The concept is you list your top 50 people/things you are thankful for with what you are most thankful for posted on thanksgiving day.
I’m Grateful for many things. But, this year, I am most thankful for you.
It seems so little to say “thank you,” and I wish I could do more to show my appreciation. But, please know, you have literally saved my life.
I read the stories of people who battle this condition and I praise God for giving you the insight to treat it differently. I wish I had come sooner. Perhaps, last winter would not have been as horrible as it was if I had made the decision to go sooner. I wish more people would listen to the results you achieve. Instead, people listen to providers say that doesn’t work or hear the words “you are foolish for going.”
Ultimately, this year, I’m most thankful for you. I pray you have a wonderful holiday with your family.”
The upshot? I’m thankful for many things today: my beautiful family, a great relationship with my one and only wife, seeing my kids grow to be fantastic young adults, a career where I get to continually innovate and think outside the box, and this wonderful e-mail that makes me remember why I continue to do what I do. I’m also thankful for the fact that we now have new CRPS treatments, as having nothing to offer that can help is a doctor’s own special form of purgatory.
About the Author
Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…