Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS, can affect your life to the degree that working, relaxing and enjoying time with loved ones is difficult. Pain medications may cause side effects that you don’t like or that make your life even more difficult. Other treatments, such as spinal cord stimulators, can be too expensive for you to consider them as options. Yet, you need to find some form of pain relief so you can function in your professional and personal lives.
CRPS 1 and CRPS 11
The first form of CRPS can develop after you suffer a limb injury – it may be something as simple as a sprain. Once your limb has recovered, the pain doesn’t go away. Instead, it grows progressively worse, eventually taking over your life and making it difficult for you to enjoy very much of your life.
The second form of CRPS is more likely to develop if you have suffered even partial damage to a nerve in your body. This pain can become so intense that you may even be willing to consider having that limb amputated. Having the limb amputed does not really help the pain, this same pain makes itself felt in your limb stump. (This is known as “phantom pain,” because the nerves “remember” the sensation.) So now, you’re right back where you started. If your CRPS pain begins to improve within one year of your injury, you are one of the fortunate ones, because CRPS pain that has lasted for longer is much less likely to resolve or even improve.
The Finding of the Pain Research Institute, University of Liverpool
Researchers at the Pain Research Institute in the United Kingdom have been looking for non-invasive treatments that effectively reduce the pain of CRPS, thus helping to make the lives of CRPS patients much more enjoyable. They found that intravenous immunoglobin, also called IVIG, can help to reduce pain significantly in some CRPS sufferers. The dosage of IVIG is low and causes few adverse side effects in most patients. Even better, researchers and patients found that the pain relief lasted, on average, for about five weeks. Researchers found that one treatment provided marked pain relief in just fewer than 50 percent of CRPS patients. With results this strong, IVIG should undergo more research trials to ensure it is truly an effective treatment.
Because your body’s tissues were damaged when you suffered your injury, this made you more vulnerable to developing CRPS. The injury changed how the nerves in your injured limb communicated pain signals to your brain. Once this happens, even more changes take place inside your brain and in your spinal cord. The researchers who have been looking for effective, pain-relieving treatments believe that all of these changes contribute to causing your CRPS symptoms and prolonging your pain. Because of this, the pain medications that you take for a headache or toothache, for instance, won’t work very effectively on your CRPS-caused pain.
Now that researchers and doctors are beginning to understand how CRPS works, they are better equipped to find and administer more-effective treatments – such as the IVIG treatment researchers are now studying.
Benefits of IVIG Treatment for CRPS
Let’s face it – you need relief for your pain. You don’t want the treatments to be too complex or expensive. You don’t want the relief to come with side effects that are just as bad as the pain. The best treatment, then, is one that’s easy for your doctor to administer, has few side effects and is affordable for you and your insurance carrier to pay for.
While IVIG is still being studied as a treatment for CRPS, it shows real promise. This research and the treatment are new enough that the National Health Service in the U.K. had not begun providing coverage as of 2010.
IVIG, if it is approved by various government agencies in different countries, may actually prove to be even more effective than originally believed. The senior lecturer for the Pain Medicine Institute in Liverpool explained that IVIG treatments can be given in differing doses. Repeating these treatments may also offer additional benefits. He also said that IVIG is given intravenously every four weeks. He and his team are working to find new ways to allow CRPS patients to give themselves the treatment in the privacy of their own homes. This adds an additional benefit for CRPS patients – convenience of treatment. If a treatment is easy, doesn’t cost much, has few side effects and you can administer it to yourself, you’re more likely to stick with your IVIG treatment regimen and experience ongoing pain relief.
Implications of IVIG for Other Pain Conditions
Dr. Goebel, the senior lecturer of the Pain Medicine Institute, also mentioned that IVIG may prove to be an effective treatment for other mysterious pain conditions. As quoted on the ScienceDaily website, “If one pain condition can be effectively treated with an immune drug, then it is possible that other types will also respond.”