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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

a woman sitting with back pain in a office

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a form of chronic pain that can sometimes follow traumatic injuries, especially those to the hands and arms.  It was previously known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) – some physicians, in fact, still use this phrase to describe patients suffering from the disease.  A frequently used pain scale, the McGill Pain Scale, ranks CRPS as 42/50, the most painful form of chronic pain a human can experience.  Patients with CRPS who have more easily diagnosed symptoms are also commonly said to have “causalgia.” Our firm recently resolved a personal injury case for a client whose RSD was caused by an accident for a confidential six-figure settlement. 

Common Symptoms

Not every case of CRPS/RSD will have the same symptoms.  Some of the more common include (1) severe burning pain, (2) temperature changes, (3) unusual or excessive hair growth, (4) increased sweating, (5) hard swelling, (6) tremors, (7) muscle spasms, (8) weakness, (9) sensitivity to touch, heat or other stimuli, (10) muscle wasting, and (11) skin changes, including changes in color, dryness, and shininess.   Left untreated, these symptoms will get worse over time and, in many cases, will become permanent and debilitating.  They may also spread from the initial extremity to others.

It is essential for you to treat CRPS early and aggressively.  Treatment options vary based on the patient and symptoms, but physical therapy is frequently recommended, along with the use of pharmaceuticals.  More intensive procedures, such as nerve blocks and neural simulators, may be necessary if symptoms progress. When there are psychological stressors involved, such as litigation, it can be even more challenging for a person to recover from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.  This is one reason why you need to contact an attorney soon after you have been diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome / Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. Your personal injury attorney can help you eliminate the stress of dealing with workers’ compensation and insurance company adjusters.


RSD can be the result of almost any traumatic injury, no matter the severity.  From a torn ligament in the wrist to a misplaced injection, there is virtually no rhyme or reason as to when CRPS will develop.  However, the most common causes of RSD are injuries to the limbs.  The disease was first discovered in World War I veterans who had been shot in their hands or arms.  Given the prevalence of hand injuries in the workplace, cases involving CRPS frequently arise in the workers’ compensation context.

Legal Action

CRPS is a complex disease with many causes, many symptoms, and a range of potential outcomes.  Some folks, even if treated aggressively, will still develop long-term, permanent disability and disfigurement.  If the CRPS resulted from an incident caused by the negligence of some other person or company, you have the right to pursue fair compensation from that person.  Damages recoverable include past and future medical expenses, lost wages and future diminished earning capacity, past and future pain and suffering, and compensation for permanent disability.

Even if a negligent third party is not involved, if you were injured at work, your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier is responsible for your medical care and other compensation outlined by the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Attorneys

For various reasons, cases involving CRPS / RSD are sometimes fought “tooth and nail” by the insurance companies and workers’ compensation carriers.  When that happens, you need an attorney willing to file suit and understand Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and its impact on your life.

The personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Maginnis Law can help you with your case, whether it involves a lawsuit against a negligent third party or a workers’ compensation claim involving Complex Regional Pain Syndrome / Reflex Sympathetic Syndrome.  Our firm offers free consultations. Like most personal injury firms, we offer our clients contingency fee arrangements, meaning you pay no attorneys’ fees unless and until we resolve your case.

To discuss your injuries and claim, visit our contact page to send a confidential message to our intake team. We have three conveniently located office across the state in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Fayetteville. For more information on each branch, visit the “Locations” tab in the navigation menu.