What You Should Know About Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

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If you have chronic pain issues, you may feel as if there will never be any answers to what ails you. However, if your doctor suspects that you may have a condition known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, you may be on the verge of receiving at least some answers about your chronic pain issues. Get to know some of the important facts about reflex sympathetic dystrophy and how you can learn to manage it going forward. 

What Is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a nervous system condition. It specifically affects the sympathetic nervous system which is a part of the autonomic nervous system. It is partially responsible for "background" or unconscious functions of the body, including the fight or flight response and the heartbeat.

What Are the Symptoms of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

Doctors believe that reflex sympathetic dystrophy is caused by problems with the functioning of the sympathetic nervous system. When a person has reflex sympathetic dystrophy, the first thing they may notice is a burning sensation which often will occur anywhere on the arm from the shoulder down to the fingers. People may also experience symptoms of an inflammatory condition including skin that is warm to the touch, swelling, and redness. 

The pain of reflex sympathetic dystrophy often becomes worse over time. On top of a burning sensation, a person may also feel throbbing, aching, and tingling types of pain. This pain is usually constant and can be quite severe. 

Because the pain can vary so much, it can often be misdiagnosed as other chronic nervous system pain conditions. The delay in diagnosis can often be frustrating to deal with for patients wanting to know why they have chronic pain. 

How Can Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Be Treated?

Treating reflex sympathetic dystrophy can be tricky. This is because doctors are still trying to come up with a standard of treatment for the condition. Most people suffering from reflex sympathetic dystrophy respond well to physical therapy treatments. 

Whirlpool therapy, for example, can be quite soothing when it comes to pain management. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) treatments can also help with the pain associated with reflex sympathetic dystrophy. These treatments use electrical stimulation to help disrupt nerve signals that are causing pain in the body. This can provide temporary and sometimes longer lasting pain relief. 

Some prescription medications, like corticosteroids, might also help, particularly when redness and swelling are present. Even antidepressant drugs can have a positive effect on the nervous system issues that cause the pain of reflex sympathetic dystrophy. 

Now that you know more about reflex sympathetic dystrophy, you can better handle the situation going forward.