Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
What Teachers Should Know
People with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) — also called reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS) — have continuous burning or throbbing pain, like pins and needles, in the arms, legs, hands, or feet.
Pain usually starts after an injury or surgery. Emotional stress may play a part, too. Experts think CRPS is due to problems in the nervous system and inappropriate responses by the immune system.
Other CRPS symptoms may include:
- swelling and sensitivity to touch and coldness in the affected area
- changes in skin temperature, color, or texture in the affected area
- changes in hair and nail growth
- joint stiffness, swelling, and damage
- muscle spasms and weakness
- decreased ability to move the affected body part
Emotional counseling, medication, and physical therapy can help people with CRPS. Most kids and teens with CRPS recover over time.
Students with CRPS may:
- need assistive equipment for writing
- need special seating arrangements to decrease pain
- need to use a heating pad
- need to visit the school nurse for medications during pain flare-ups
- need additional time to move between classes if their mobility is impaired
- miss class time due to medical appointments
- have trouble concentrating and be tired in class due to sleep problems
- need additional time to complete assignments and tests
- develop depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- be at risk for bullying
- benefit from having an individualized education plan (IEP) or 504 education plan
What Teachers Can Do
Students with CRPS might miss class time and school days due to physical and emotional distress and appointments with health care professionals.
Encourage your student with CRPS to be involved in school and extracurricular activities, and to stay connected with classmates. While exercise can improve symptoms, students might need additional support during gym class and to limit their activity due to pain.
Ask before touching your student with CRPS — even a pat on the shoulder could cause severe pain. Students with CRPS also might be sensitive to loud noise, so make sure to check before having your student sit near loudspeakers, intercoms, and school bells.
If your student is sensitive to cold temperatures, check his or her IEP or 504 plan before sending the student outside for recess in frigid weather.
Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: June 2015