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Sympathetically Mediated Pain

Sympathetic mediated pain, also known as sympathetic nerve pain and complex regional pain syndrome, is a chronic neuropathic pain condition. Although rare, this condition occurs when the sympathetic nervous system inexplicably sends pain signals to the brain. The pain associated with the condition is chronic and often debilitating, with even the slightest touch causing severe pain. The mechanics around this condition are not fully understood, but it is most frequently triggered by a major or minor physical trauma.

Sympathetically mediated pain is a very complex issue. Consult your physician for more information about this syndrome.

Warning Signs & Symptoms

Sympathetic pain is most commonly expressed as a severe burning sensation in the extremities. The affected areas become increasingly sensitive to touch and can often become discolored. Abnormal sweating, altered temperatures, swelling and aching in the affected areas are also common.

Possible Risk Factors

The cause of sympathetic medicated pain or complex regional pain syndrome isn't clearly understood.

Many cases occur after a forceful trauma to an arm or a leg, such as a crush injury, fracture or amputation. Other major and minor traumas — such as surgery, heart attacks, infections and even sprained ankles — can lead to this syndrome. Emotional stress may be a precipitating factor, as well.

Tests to Diagnose Sympathetic Medicated Pain

Nerve blocks are commonly used to diagnosis sympathetic medicated pain. A block can help physicians identify the location of the affected nerve. Early diagnosis of this condition can increase the chances of curing the disorder and reversing symptoms.

Treatment Options

Medication, nerve blocks and physical therapy are used to manage sympathetic medicated pain.

Prevention

The following measures may reduce the risk of developing sympathetic medicated pain syndrome:

  • Studies have shown that people who took a daily minimum dose of 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C after a wrist fracture had a lower risk of the syndrome compared with those who didn't take vitamin C.
  • Some research suggests that people who get out of bed and walk around soon after a stroke lower their risk of sympathetic medicated pain syndrome.