Complex regional pain syndrome is a condition that occurs when an individual experiences chronic pain following an injury. The symptoms must persist for longer than six months and are usually concentrated in one limb. Though most cases of this condition occur after an injury, it's not necessary for an injury to have occurred to receive a diagnosis. Researchers believe complex regional pain syndrome is caused by a malfunction of the central and peripheral nervous systems. The condition's main characteristics are prolonged pain, changes in color, temperature changes, and swelling in the area affected. The two subtypes of complex regional pain syndrome are CRPS-I and CRPS-II. When a nerve injury isn't confirmed, the diagnosis is CRPS-I, and if a nerve injury has been identified, the diagnosis is CRPS-II.
Heat therapy has been shown to be successful in treating some of the symptoms associated with complex regional pain syndrome. Conversely, patients should not use ice for their symptoms, as it has been shown to make symptoms worse and can even cause the pain to spread. The only time ice is used are when swelling is so extreme that ice is necessary to bring it down. If patients use baths to treat their symptoms, they should make sure the water stays warm. Heat therapy can be applied through a variety of different tools. Patients may benefit from a hot cloth, heating pad, hot water bottle, or cordless heating wrap around their affected limb. In addition to treating complex regional pain syndrome, heat therapy is an effective tool for treating muscle injuries and arthritis. It is most often used in a rehabilitative context.