Why this is important to know

There are numerous medical conditions with symptoms that are similar to CRPS. When making a CRPS diagnosis, doctors will first check if the symptoms are actually being caused by a different medical conditions.

By understanding what other conditions your doctors are considering when making your diagnosis, you‘ll be able to engage in the discussions, and better advocate for your care.

Here is a list of some of the other conditions your doctors will consider as they narrow down to a CRPS diagnosis:

Rule out nerve issues

  • A compressed nerve (e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome, compressed nerve in the neck)
  • Nerve problems related to diabetes, HIV, or shingles
  • Central pain syndrome (after a stroke)

Rule out blood vessel issues

  • Ischemic claudication (pain in the legs when walking due to lack of blood flow)
  • Lymphedema (swelling due to a problem in draining lymph fluid)
  • Deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot)
  • Erythromelalgia (a blood vessel disorder in the hands and feet that leads to redness, heat, and pain which is  triggered or worsened by heat or activity)

Rule out inflammatory problems or an infection

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cellulitis (bacterial skin infection)
  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (neurological disorder where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the protective covering of nerve fibers, leading to weakness and sensory loss)
  • Gout (a form of arthritis)

Other things to rule out

  • Strain / sprain
  • Fibromyalgia

Understanding Diagnostic Tests for CRPS

In your journey towards a diagnosis, your doctor may recommend various tests. These tests can produce valuable information.   However, none of these test are “perfect” for deciding whether someone has CRPS or not.

  • Sometimes these test come out normal even when someone has CRPS.
  • Sometimes these tests come out abnormal even when someone doesn’t have CRPS.

These tests are used in combination with clinical judgment and assessment of symptoms. And for many people, it's not necessary to have all these tests.

Thermography

  • Measuring the temperature of different parts of the body once, or on a daily basis and comparing the painful side of the body to the non-painful side of the body

Radionuclide Bone Scintigraphy

  • An imaging test that utilizes a very small amount of radioactive material to check for bone abnormalities even before they would show up on a regular x-ray.

Electromyography (EMG)

  • Checks the health of the body’s nerves and muscles and measures the speed of how fast nerve signals travel through the body.

Musculoskeletal Ultrasound

  • Uses sound waves to produce a picture of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints, which helps check for inflammation, swelling, or other abnormalities.

Skin Biopsy

  • A procedure where a small piece of skin is removed and examined under a microscope, which can help determine abnormalities in nerve fibers in the skin

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