Complex Regional Pain Syndrome causes a life in constant pain

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome causes a life in constant pain

A life in constant pain.  That is the reality for a Lake Charles woman, diagnosed with CRPS: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Laura Phillips has been living in constant, chronic pain for three years.  "I knew something was wrong with fingers not working correctly, typing, numbness issues, and pain," she said.

Those changes alerted this registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience, but she could not pinpoint the problem as the pain spread throughout her body.  "Like piercing, burning fire.  Like arrows stuck in there all the time," said Phillips.

A series of neurological tests and an analysis of Phillip's symptoms led to the diagnosis of CRPS and RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy), a progressive disease affecting the nervous system.  Lake Charles Memorial Hospital pain management specialist, Dr. Seth Billiodeaux, says the disease impacts the fight or flight nerve fibers.  "It's the nerves that increase blood flow to your heart and other organs," he said.  "It can be with a major injury. We also see many patients who it's set off by minor injuries.  Then there are some who don't have a specific etiology."

Phillips does not know what set off her CRPS.

Dr. Billiodeaux says while the nerves are what is affected, there are external signs of the disease.  "Swelling, there's warmth, there's sweating, usually in the early stages," he said.  "In the later stages you see stiffness, coldness, difficulty using the muscles in that extremity."

For Phillips, that started with her left hand, then to her arm, down her leg and now to her right side.  "My hand always stays ice cold," she said, "it sweats a lot and my arm always burns and it burns in my neck all the way down to my spine."

Treatment is simply managing the pain.  Phillips has a spinal cord stimulator that helps block nerve impulses.  She also takes medication and uses heat therapy.

All of those methods are temporary fixes and Phillips says it is the optimism of her specialists that encourages her that relief, maybe even a cure, could be on the horizon.  "Their hope is what keeps me hoping," she said, "knowing that it's going to get better."

Patients with CRPS use a pain scale that starts at the number 11 and goes all the way up to 50.  Phillips says her pain number is typically around 35. 

The first ever walk to raise awareness for CRPS-RSD is happening Saturday, November 7th at Prien Lake Park in Lake Charles.  It is free and starts at 8:00.  You can just show up and you are encouraged to wear red.

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