Complex Regional Pain Syndrome & Dysautonomia

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome is a disruption to the sympathetic nerves that regulate blood flow and creates severe burning pain in the body. Upper cervical care can help treat the cause. Clear Chiropractic is an upper cervical specialist practice in Spokane, Washington that is a natural alternative for helping people with neck pain, headaches and vertigo.

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS, also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) is a peculiar and extraordinarily painful condition. It is often misdiagnosed, and the only medical treatment is prescription medication to manage the symptoms.

By understanding the cause of complex regional pain syndrome, a different approach that focuses on the health and function of your brain and neck (cervical spine) can help.

Symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

The hallmark of complex regional pain syndrome is that it feels like parts of your body are on fire:

  • Brain fog, migraines, dizziness and vertigo
  • Burning and numbness into your neck, arms or hands
  • Burning into your low back, thighs or feet.

Complex regional pain syndrome is often misdiagnosed as a number of other conditions. Migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome or sciatica are just a few examples.

The thing about it is that the burning and pain sensations do not follow normal nerve or muscle pathways.

For example, the pain can encompass the entire upper arm and shoulder. Or the whole leg. Or just the tips of your fingers or toes.

It is at this point that people wonder if they might have some type of neurodegenerative condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS), which does produce weird sensations in weird places in the body. The hallmark of MS are specific lesions on the brain or spinal cord. However, when so many people who experience complex regional pain syndrome have an MRI, their tests results come back normal.

This is a good thing! However, it doesn’t’ explain what is causing the problem. As a result, they commonly slip through the medical system where the only prescribed treatment is medication to manage the symptoms.

So what is going on? And more importantly, what can you do about it?

Autonomic Nervous System

Your autonomic nervous system is responsible for the various functions of your body that require no conscious effort to maintain: heart rate, breathing, digestion, hormone balance, etc. The autonomic system comprises two functional divisions:

  1. Parasympathetic – The proverbial “repair, rest and digest” system that governs healing.
  2. Sympathetic – The proverbial “fight or flight” system that governs activity.

Here is the important thing to know. Sympathetic nerves control the function of blood and lymphatic flow to all parts of your body. It is called vasomotor function.

Complex regional pain syndrome is a dysfunction of these sympathetic nerves in various places of the body. The consequence is that you can experience burning pains that cover large spans of your brain or body, and patterns that do not follow the typical pathway or single nerves or blood vessels either.

In this way, complex regional pain syndrome is categorized as a type of dysautonomia: a functional neurological disorder that affects your brain and body.

The kicker is that functional neurological disorders are software issues that have to do with how your brain processes information. Because it is not a hardware issue, the problem does not typically appears on a CT or MRI scan, which explains why so many of your tests come back as normal.

Whiplash and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

A common underlying factor for many people who experience complex regional pain syndrome is a history of a whiplash injury. An impact even as slight as 5mph is known to be sufficient to cause a whiplash injury.

Falls, low speed car accidents and sports injuries (especially where the head, neck and shoulder get whipped in opposite directions) are often the common denominator.

The thing about it is that the symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome can take months or years to develop following the original injury.

Imagine a slow leak in your roof. Even if you don’t have a waterfall pouring into your living room after a big rainstorm, if that small leak grows over months, years or even decades, eventually the problem will become very big. Complex regional pain syndrome often develops the same way, which is what makes it so insidious.

Fortunately, by understanding the disorder for what it is, it gives you the opportunity to do something about it. Your body never forgets how to heal itself. It just needs the time and opportunity to do so free from interference with its normal function.

With whiplash injuries, damage to the muscles and ligaments that support the mobility and function of your neck is a major contributing factor. When your cervical spine (neck) does not move properly, it can produce local irritation to the various nerves that supply the area.


Sympathetic Nerves

Among the most important of these nerves is a cluster found along the front of your neck called the superior cervical ganglion. This bundle of nerve cells supples sympathetic (vasomotor) nerves to all parts of your brain as well as your neck. Therefore, it is possible that mechanical irritation of these cells can disrupt normal circulation to, from and within your brain as one of the contributing factors toward a myriad of functional neurological disorders:

Here is where a different approach to healthcare can help.

Upper Cervical Care and Dysautonomia

And upper cervical doctor (aka craniocervical specialist) is a different form of chiropractic care that does not involve any stretching, twisting or cracking of the neck.

Its focus is on the alignment, motion and stability of the joints in your upper neck because of their unique relationship to the brain, vagus nerve and sympathetic nerve plexus. A procedure known as the Blair technique uses a series of advanced diagnostic scans (including DA X-rays or CBCT) to identify the exact level and direction of misalignment in your neck that can affect your sympathetic nerves. A Blair practitioner makes a precise and gentle correction to restore the normal motion of this area, which can free that source of irritation and allows your body to heal itself.

Upper cervical is a remarkably different form of healthcare. It does not involve any drugs, surgery, stretching or manipulation. Even if you have tried physical therapy, massage or general chiropractic, the Blair technique is different. If you are looking for a chiropractor in Spokane, visit our home page more information. To schedule a new patient appointment with our Mead (north Spokane) or South Hill offices, complete a new patient request form here or call us direct at 509-315-8166.