Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Injuries > Ankle > Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

(Also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, Sympathetically Mediated Pain, C.R.P.S.)

What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome of the Ankle?

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (C.R.P.S.) is a condition of the nervous system which, although uncommon, can occur following trauma or significant injury. The nature of CRPS is unusual and the cause is not clearly understood.

Causes of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Although the cause of this condition is not clearly understood it can occur following trauma or significant injury (such as a fracture or severe ankle sprain) or following excessive immobilisation.

Signs and symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Patients with this condition may experience:

  • Pain out of proportion to the injury
  • Temperature or colour changes of the affected body part
  • Swelling
  • Abnormal sweating 
  • Delayed recovery from injury.

Diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

A thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist or doctor is usually sufficient to diagnose this condition.

Treatment for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Since early treatment of this condition significantly improves prognosis, early diagnosis is imperative. Therefore, seeing a doctor or physiotherapist as soon as possible to have symptoms assessed and the likelihood of C.R.P.S. determined is vital. Early mobilization of the affected body part and avoidance of surgery are two important factors in effective management of this condition. Medication can also be useful. If the pain does not settle, chemical or surgical blockade of nerves may sometimes be indicated.

    Exercises for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

    The following exercises are commonly prescribed to patients with this condition. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should be performed 3 times daily and only provided they do not cause or increase symptoms.

    Foot and Ankle Up and Down  

    Move your foot and ankle up and down as far as possible and comfortable without pain (figure 6). Repeat 10 – 20 times provided there is no increase in symptoms.

    Exercises for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome - Foot & Ankle Up & Down

    Figure 6 – Foot and Ankle Up and Down (left leg)

    Foot and Ankle In and Out 

    Move your foot and ankle in and out as far as possible and comfortable without pain (figure 7). Repeat 10 -20 times provided there is no increase in symptoms.

    Exercises for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome - Foot & Ankle In & Out

    Figure 7 – Foot and Ankle In and Out (right leg)

    Lunge Stretch 

    With your hands against the wall, place your leg to be stretched in front of you as demonstrated (figure 8). Keep your heel down. Gently move your knee forward over your toes as far as possible and comfortable without pain. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times at a mild to moderate stretch pain-free.

    Exercises for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome - Lunge Stretch

    Figure 8 – Lunge Stretch (right leg)

    Physiotherapy products

    Some of the most commonly recommended products by physiotherapist to hasten healing and speed recovery in patients with ankle injuries include:

    1. Crutches
    2. Ice and Heat Packs
    3. Ankle Braces
    4. Ankle Supports
    5. Sports Tape (for protective taping)
    6. Heel Wedges
    7. Wobble Boards (for rehabilitation)
    8. Dura Discs (for rehabilitation)

    To purchase physiotherapy products for ankle injuries click on one of the above links or visit the PhysioAdvisor Shop.

     

    More information

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