I've been promising an overview on CRPS treatment options that currently exist and keep forgetting to do so. I wanted to make sure to get to this before the end of November and the end of CRPS Awareness Month. I won't be going super in depth into anything here in this post, but please feel free to ask any questions. I'm always very happy to help.
Anti-epileptics, such as Lyrica (pregabalin) and gabapentin, are used to control neuropathic (nerve-based) pain. They can be disorientating at first and I always recommend not planning on driving when very first starting or making a big dose change. I actually find a huge dose change on these to be as or more disorientating as a change of my narcotics dosage. They are usually a first line treatment and can be very effective. Lyrica and gabapentin are related, with Lyrica being the newer of the two. Lyrica is taken 1-2 times per day, and gabapentin is taken 3 times a day.
Narcotics are very commonly used in the treatment of CRPS. CRPS tends to be very resistant to treatment, so the big guns tend to be necessary to provide even a sliver of comfort to the patient. There are short acting medications, like Percocet (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone), as well as long acting meds like Oxycontin, MS Contin (morphine), fentanyl patches, and Butrans (buprenorphine patches). Many patients use both a short acting and a long acting med. The long acting medication gives a blanket level of pain relief and the short acting is for flare ups of pain, also known as "Breakthrough Pain". These meds come with a host of side effects such as constipation and legal ramifications (many doctors require random drug screening while you're on these meds, to make sure you're taking your meds on schedule at the correct dose and only your meds), but they can be extremely useful.
There a couple other types of meds used in the treatment of CRPS. These can range from anti inflammatories like Meloxicam to the immunosuppressant MTX (methotrexate) to a class of antidepressants called SNRIs. I currently take the SNRI Savella and while I find it doesn't lower my pain any it does make me care a lot less about the pain and it makes it easier to get out and do things despite the pain.
2) Physical Therapy
PT is ESSENTIAL for the proper treatment of CRPS, but it must be done correctly. Things need to be taken slowly and surely. Very slowly. I've not had the best luck with PT centers that specialize in sports injury patients. The best therapy I've personally found is at a local rehab hospital, where most of the patients are transitioning between a hospital stay and going home. The biggest thing is to find a physical therapist who has experience working with CRPS, which can be tough to do. If there's no one in town who's already familiar, find a therapist who is very curious and willing to do some research and learning. I always recommend warm water physical therapy as it helps with allodynia in addition to pain. For more details on PT and CRPS, feel free to check my other blog posts using the tag "PT".
I was going to try to fit this in 1 post, but even keeping things short and sweet, it's becoming a bit epic in length. To keep things easy and readable, I'm going to break this up into 2-3 posts.