The Challenge of CRPS

If you or your child suffers from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), you're well aware of the debilitating pain and emotional toll it can take.

Recent research brings encouraging news that could change our understanding of CRPS in children and adolescents, offering fresh optimism for more effective treatments.

Understanding Brain Changes in CRPS

A recent study at Boston Children’s Hospital used advanced brain scans to understand more about how CRPS changes the brain and whether these changes can be reversed.

The study looked at gray matter in the brain. Gray matter consists of nerve cells and is crucial for processing information in the brain, affecting everything from muscle control to sensory perception, emotions, and cognition.

Changes in gray matter are thought to contribute to the symptoms of CRPS, such as pain, anxiety, and cognitive issues.

The researchers confirmed that children with CRPS had less gray matter in many areas of the brain - especially areas related to processing pain.

Intensive Therapy

After the initial brain scans, the kids in the study began an intensive treatment regimen.

The study's treatment program is more intense than what you usually see. It's an 8-hour daily routine for 3-4 weeks that combines physical therapy, occupational therapy, and mental health therapy.

Hopeful Findings

After undergoing therapy, patients experienced numerous positive changes:

  1. Reduced Pain and Emotional Distress: They felt better, reporting lower levels of pain, depression, and anxiety.
  2. Changes in Brain Structure: The brain scans showed real, positive changes in gray matter, especially in areas that “lower the volume” on pain sensations.
  3. Stronger Brain Connections: After treatment, there were stronger pathways between the brain regions that work together to “lower the volume” down on pain.

The red area indicates one of the brain regions where increased gray matter was observed after therapy. Image Source: 'Rapid treatment-induced brain changes in pediatric CRPS.' Brain Structure and Function’ (2016)

What This All Means: A New Way to Think About Treatment

This research is groundbreaking in more ways than one. Not only does it show that targeted treatments can have a significant impact, but it also reveals the brain's incredible ability to adapt and recover.

This is particularly hopeful for younger individuals, whose nervous systems are often more flexible and responsive to change. These findings open up new avenues for treatments that can focus directly on the brain areas impacted by CRPS.

While TrainPain was not involved in this study, we're collaborating with some members of this research team in a new study on neuroplasticity training.

Source:  "Rapid treatment-induced brain changes in pediatric CRPS" published in the journal 'Brain Structure and Function' in 2016

Read more science-based insights about Pain, Neuroplasticity & Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS / RSD)


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