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Pain Syndromes

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic (defined as lasting more than 6 months) pain condition usually affecting one or more of a person’s limbs. This condition is most commonly triggered by tissue damage from a trauma or injury, for example a bone fracture, surgery, skin burn, etc. and presents as an excessive response to a trigger that normally would not be painful, for example clothing touching the affected area.

The hallmark symptom of this condition is prolonged and severe pain, usually described as a “burning pain”. This pain can be local to the injury site or travel throughout the limb and will often include an extreme sensitivity to touch in the affected area. Other symptoms may include changes in skin temperature (limb feels warm or cool), skin color (blotchiness, blue, pale, purple or red) and skin texture (shiny and thin).  Swelling, abnormal sweating in the affected area, changes in nail and hair growth patterns, and issues with muscle coordination and joint stiffness can also occur in the affected limb. These symptoms can vary in severity and duration.

Current research suggests that most chronic pain syndromes are caused by the “re-wiring” of the brain so that it triggers a pain response even when there is no longer a dangerous stimulus. In other words, the continuing pain is not a signal that there is continuing harm being done to that area. Effective treatments work to help undo this incorrect wiring and signalling by the brain.

Action Potential Rehabilitation physiotherapists have the training and experience to help you manage your pain and regain function. After a thorough assessment, she will be able to prescribe an individualized program. Exercise will also be important in improving and maintaining the limb’s flexibility, strength and overall function, especially when pain has limited the use of the affected body part.

Our physiotherapists may use techniques such as desensitization, Graded Motor Imagery and mirror therapy to retrain the brain’s connection to the affected area. Self-management techniques and coping strategies will also be introduced.  The overall goal of our intervention is to reduce the discomfort and increase the function of the affected limb.


This website provides general information about our services and conditions treated. It is not intended to be used for self-assessment or treatment, and is not a substitute for an individualized treatment plan developed by a registered physiotherapist.

By the Action Potential Rehabilitation Staff

Page last reviewed: June 2, 2023