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After the Wound Heals: The Pain of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

The body does a wonderful job of healing itself, and an even better job when aided by modern medicine. But what if the pain of an accident or injury got worse, not better-even as the physical signs of the injury began to fade? That’s the problem faced by those with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD, sometimes also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS). RSD is a rare disease, but it was first diagnosed over 140 years ago, when doctors noticed that some Civil War soldiers continued to suffer pain, even after their wounds had healed. While doctors do not yet fully understand RSD, they know it has something to do with nerves misfiring by sending pain signals to the brain, even though the tissue damage caused by an injury is healing. These damaged nerves also lose the ability to properly control blood flow and temperature to the affected area.


RSD is often found in the arms or legs, generally after some sort of injury. It could be something as mild as a kick to the leg or dropping something on one’s foot, or it could come from something more severe, such as a traffic accident or an on-the-job injury.

In many cases, the skin around the injury becomes swollen and inflamed, as well as sweaty and warm. The person may also feel that area is sensitive to touch or to hot and cold. Other symptoms, like abnormal hair and nail growth may be present.

Symptoms of RSD often lead to a misdiagnosis as some other sort of nerve injury, so if you are experiencing these sorts of feelings, ask your doctor if it could be RSD. If properly diagnosed early, physical therapy can help prevent the disease from getting worse, while the symptoms can often be managed with medication. Currently there is no known cure.

Because RSD may take a while to develop, some people may not realize they have lingering issues as they heal from their injuries. That’s why it’s important to not quickly agree to any offers to pay for your hospitalization costs following a minor injury. Instead, anyone injured should discuss their situation with an experienced personal injury attorney, who can fully advise them on their legal rights.

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