Repairing Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Naturally
Gladys has been in pain for years. It started when she sprained her wrist. It wasn’t broken, and she wore a brace for a couple of weeks, but the pain never went away, and began to get worse over time. She is unable to use her left arm much of the time due to pain, sensitivity, and weakness. Her skin changes colors, often appearing mottled. Sometimes her hand goes numb and her fingers turn white. It is a constant problem, though the symptoms change over time. Severe pain wakes her up at night. Just moving her hand is hard because it often feels swollen and stiff. Even her own clothing can cause severe pain. She has been to many doctors, but the medications are either pain pills that don’t work, or sedatives that make her drowsy… and still don’t work.
Gladys has a syndrome called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). CRPS is usually found in one arm or leg and is a very difficult illness to diagnose and treat. Most people never find out why it happens. After a major injury like a compound fracture or a minor needle prick, the body produces an inflammatory reaction that damages the nervous system.
- Throbbing pain
- Sensitivity to temperature change
- Sensitivity to light touch
- Changes in skin temperature, texture, and color
- Changes in hair
- Nail changes
- Joint stiffness, pain, swelling and damage
- Muscle spasms, tremors, weakness and loss (atrophy) of muscle mass
These are all classic CRPS symptoms created by the sympathetic nerves of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system keeps us stable by managing blood flow, temperature, pressure, and inflammation. Thus, when not working properly, these nerves can make it appear like there is injury or damage to tissues. In turn, swelling occurs when the blood vessels are too enlarged, creating excess pressure or muscle spasms if not getting enough blood flow. The pain nerves are very sensitive to having enough oxygen and nutrients from the blood. If they aren’t getting enough, they will produce pain at the slightest touch.
Gladys had multiple treatments over the years, including a pain pump on her spine, and many different drugs. She gradually got worse and went to a nursing home where she still lives with continual pain despite multiple medications.
Even though a small number of people are affected by CRPS, it can be devastating. Gladys is a worst-case scenario. CRPS can improve over time, but many people are affected for years, or for life. I think for this reason alone, it would be worth finding ways to prevent and reverse this terrible illness. The treatments I’m suggesting are studied but aren’t yet recommended by specialists in the field. It can take over 20 years for research to filter down to regular doctors.
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation- Keeping the limb mobile is very important, even though it may be painful and hard. This prevents bone and muscle loss but doesn’t reverse the illness.
- Medications– There are many different medications that may provide temporary relief, but none address the underlying cause.
- Electrical stimulation– TENS units apply electrical current to the nerves that are affected, blocking the pain conduction to the brain. The problem persists, you just don’t feel it – sometimes.
- Nerve blocks and surgery– The attempt to kill the nerves that are creating the pain is rarely useful. It often doesn’t work, and the pain may return despite treatment.
- Graded imagery– Looking in a mirror while moving the good arm can trick the brain into seeing the bad arm function normally. This is a good thing to pursue because it can help the brain to change the function of the sympathetic nerves in the affected area.
While the physical, chemical, and electrical modalities may relieve symptoms, they do not address the underlying cause in the autonomic nervous system. The mind modalities such as graded imagery, counseling, and biofeedback are more successful in the long term.
The reason most treatments don’t work is because this problem is not primarily in the affected limb, but rather in the brain. The brain controls every inch of the body, changing the blood flow as needed to keep the body alive, and stable. The local effects of pain and inflammation come from dysregulation of blood flow controlled by the brain. That’s why mind techniques work better than local techniques.
Now we will look at the most advanced methods for reversing this terrible condition.
After an injury such as a sprain or fracture there are two things that seem to decrease the chances of getting CRPS:
Blood flow is extremely important to the nerves. When an injured body part is immobile, the circulation may be limited. Tight braces, casts, and other immobilization devices may cause initial damage to the nerves and start CRPS.
Repairing the Sympathetic Nervous System
The physical path to repairing the sympathetic nervous system is not simple because the mind is involved. Stress is a large factor because the stress hormones affect the sympathetic nervous system, and cause imbalance. Moreover, there is physical damage to nerves that must be repaired, and inflammation that must be reduced. All this needs to work together to heal nerves that we don’t consciously control. However, there is a plan that works.
To begin, I want to emphasize that we don’t focus on the affected limb, but rather on the brain, and the whole body.
Work on Stress Reduction
- Forgive everyone of everything – avoid anger, bitterness, or hatred.
- Let go of the past, don’t worry about the future, focus on the present – it’s a gift.
- Have a purpose in life – goals that you are working towards. A lack of focus is very stressful.
Fix Adrenal Fatigue
The effects of severe stress common in CRPS disrupts the endocrine system and elevates cortisol. By keeping your circadian rhythm stable, you can normalize your adrenal gland and reduce cortisol levels. You must work with your normal circadian rhythm and do things at the proper time to heal and put your body in “anabolic” or repair mode every night, allowing it to heal the stress caused by CRPS (or any other stress for that matter).
There are only three rules.
- No food after 6 PM.
- Sleep by 10 PM.
- Eat breakfast in the morning.
There are two primary ways we gain control over the autonomic nervous system. We normally don’t have conscious control over our blood pressure or circulation. But there are things we can do to increase our control, such as breathing and temperature. The man who holds the record for swimming under ice without a wetsuit, Wim Hof, “The Iceman,” has a series of techniques that teaches anyone how to gain control over their autonomic nervous system.
There are online courses, and free tutorials at: https://www.wimhofmethod.com/You can also find videos on YOU TUBE that teach breathing control.
Supplements for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
The purpose of supplements is to decrease inflammation and delivery needed nutrients that required for nerve repair. The recommended doses are for 90 days:
- Vitamin C – 500 mg three times per day
- Vitamin B12 – 1 mg per day
- ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid) – 600 mg twice per day
- Benfotiamine – 75 mg twice per day
ALA and Benfotiamine can be found in a supplement called NERVALA from Garden of Original Greens.
NERVALA Dosage: Start with one twice per day for 90 days, then go to one per day. This will help to reduce nerve inflammation and repair the damaged nerves.
Healing of the brain and nervous system is not an easy task and doesn’t happen overnight. However, there is a great deal more value in preventing and healing illness, rather than submitting to treatment for the rest of your life.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Fact Sheet
Pain Med. 2019 Aug 2. pii: pnz176. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnz176. [Epub ahead of print]. Body Perception Disturbance and Pain Reduction in Longstanding Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Following a Multidisciplinary Rehabilitation Program. Lewis JS1,2, Kellett S2, McCullough R2, Tapper A2, Tyler C2, Viner M2, Palmer S2.
J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2007 Jul;89(7):1424-31. Can vitamin C prevent complex regional pain syndrome in patients with wrist fractures? A randomized, controlled, multicenter dose-response study. Zollinger PE1, Tuinebreijer WE, Breederveld RS, Kreis RW.