Role of Physiotherapy in the Management of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Role of Physiotherapy in the Management of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome


The Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is defined as a chronic condition characterized by a severe pain following injury to the bone and soft tissue.

The key characteristic of CRPS is the continuous intense pain, out of proportion to the severity of the injury. CRPS most often affects one of the arms, legs, hands or feet. The most prominent symptom associated with the disorder is an intense sensation of burning and pain.

Other common symptoms include skin sensitivity, increased sweating, changes in skin temperature, joint stiffness, muscle spasms and motor disability.

Meanwhile, physiotherapy is a science that strives to improve movement dysfunction, promote optimal health and functions of the human body.

There are four major physical areas, in which physiotherapy is believed to have a development role, including:

  • Musculoskeletal
  • Cardiopulmonary
  • Integumentary
  • Neurological

In the further sections, we have discussed the role physiotherapy plays in the management of the complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

Physiotherapy – Role in CRPS

Physiotherapy is one of most important measures followed for the treatment of the complex regional pain syndrome. A series of research reports indicate towards the positive role of physiotherapy in the management of this disorder.

In fact, experts strongly suggest that the mainstay of the treatment modalities for CRPS lies in the fact that the pain associated with CRPS is not any form of damage and hence responds positively to graded physiotherapy.

The key role of physiotherapy in the condition of CRPS is to facilitate functional rehabilitation. Since the primary cause of the occurrence of CRPS is a severe injury or damage, such goal-based rehabilitation is definitely vital to cure the disorder.

At its core, the goal of a physiotherapist is to help the patient gradually move towards an independent life post pharmacologic treatment. He/She identifies and maximizes movement through health promotion, preventive healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation.

The Approach

The non-invasive preventive, restorative and rehabilitative tools of physiotherapy ensure that the set goals of treatment of CRPS are met in a desirable manner.

This approach of physiotherapy in the condition of the complex regional pain syndrome can be basically studied under the following subheads.

  • Desensitization of the affected region – Using specific physiotherapy techniques, the area affected by CRPS needs to be desensitized to disable the perception of pain.
  • Mobilization and isometric strengthening – Movement and enhancement of flexibility are vital for the treatment of any disorder resulting from physical injury, whether external or internal. This step advocates the isometric strengthening and mobilization of the affected part.
  • Stress loading, postural normalization and aerobic conditioning – This particular step stresses on the postural rehabilitation and the need for exercise. Maintaining correct posture is the key to physiotherapy-based rehabilitation of a disorder.
  • Vocational and functional rehabilitation – This step highlights the significance of the final step in the physiotherapy-based rehabilitation in the case of CRPS. To eliminate the complete impact of the disorder, it is important that the concerned individual returns to work and attempts to gain total efficiency in the normal activities.