Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, limb injury, and Vitamin C: What’s the connection?

crps

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic, difficult to treat, painful condition usually affecting either an arm or leg after an injury or trauma to that limb.  CRPS is thought to be an exaggerated response by the nervous system to the injury.

Who can get it?

Anyone can be affected by CRPS, but it is most common in women about the age of 40 after an injury to a limb including fracture, sprains, and strains.

What are the common symptoms:

Usually “nerve” type of pain including burning, pins and needles, swelling, discoloration, and extremely sensitive to changes in temperature.  Although the “injury” may have been to a toe or finger, the entire leg or arm could eventually be affected.

What’s the Vitamin C connection?

There have been some promising studies on the use of Vitamin C as a preventative measure for reducing the chance of CRPS after wrist fractures. This could theoretically be applied to lower extremity injuries as well since there is no major downside to Vitamin C at this dosage.

Bottom line:

If you suffer a fairly significant limb injury or fracture, especially if you are a women about the age of 40, take 500 mg of Vitamin C for 50 days to help reduce your chances of CRPS. Vitamin C is water soluble and side effects are rare at this dosage. Of course, talk with your physician first to make sure it’s a good idea.  

Ed Deboo, PT

Bellingham, Physical Therapy