Complex Regional Pain Syndrome’s effects on bone and muscle can be devastating. CRPS affects the way blood flows to the limb due to constriction of the blood vessels. This causes the bones, muscles, joints, and ligaments to become damaged and weakened. There are many problems decreased blood flow causes. These are a few of the effects commonly experienced by people with CRPS.
CRPS’s effect on joints is stiffness. The worst joint stiffness is usually in the morning, making it extremely difficult to move. The stiffness is caused by the lack of movment while in bed. Even though people with CRPS do not sleep more than a few hours at a time, it is enough inactivity to cause the joints to stiffen.
Locked joints are most often caused by not using the limb. They are caused by the elastic connective tissue around a joint being replaced by inelastic connective tissue. This process is known as contracture. It commonly affects the muscles around an ankle or wrist joint. Fingers can become curled in a fixed, claw-like position, while toes can be pulled down and under the foot.
Atrophy is a reality for many people with CRPS. Like locked joints, it is often caused by not using the limb. It is vital to keep the CRPS affected limb moving and the muscles pliable. There is an old saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” This is a mantra for people with CRPS. Using the limb as much as possible can help stop, or lessen the chance of locked joints and atrophy.
CRPS’s effect on bone often appear in the form of osteopenia and osteoporosis. If osteoporosis becomes severe, there is a greater chance of bone fractures. A test frequently ordered to check for osteopenia or osteoporosis is a bone scan. This test has a fifty-fifty chance of showing ‘positive’ for CRPS. The most important fact to remember about a bone scan is even though it is normal, it does not mean you do not have CRPS.
Muscle weakness is a frequently talked about symptom of CRPS. Some people with CRPS in the legs, who also have significant muscle weakness, may fall many times a day. A symptom that can add to the danger of falling is uncontrollable jerking of the CRPS affected limb. The jerking is caused by severe muscle spasms of all the muscles in the limb. The jerking can last from 10 minutes to an hour or more.
The uncontrollable jerking is a movement disorder called dystonia. Dystonia is caused by sustained muscle contractions causing repetitive movements and abnormal postures. They can be mild to severe, affecting a small area of the body such as an arm or leg, or involving the entire body. For some people with CRPS who have severe dystonia, their whole bodies can contort causing overwhelming pain. Episodes are typically sudden and violent and have caused some people to suffer dislocated joints or broken bones.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome’s effects on bone and muscle are different for everyone. Some are painful, while others are crippling. The most important thing to remember is keep moving no matter what.