CRPS: A debilitating illness often denied

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2023 | Workers' Compensation

A mysterious and excruciating disease recently underwent a name change in the hopes of reflecting the agony of those suffering from the affliction on a daily basis.

What was once Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) is now the equally vague Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Even with the name change, hard-working professionals struck down by the illness’ impact still struggle with securing workers’ compensation benefits.

What is CPRS?

Regions affected on the body are numerous and commonly include arms, legs, buttocks, and ears as if the pain was not enough. Many insurance companies do not “recognize” regional pain issues. Many see the name and presume its lack of legitimacy as a disease or disorder.

Many suffer in silence with a name that truly does not reflect the agony people experience, leaving them suffering and bedridden. Some end up succumbing to the disease before their time.

A painful disease’s history

The origins of CRPS date back to 1812 when a British surgeon documented the first known description, noting that a soldier he treated was suffering burning pain that resulted in constant sweating from his face. In 1964, another doctor treated wounded Civil War soldiers who experienced the same agony close to their battle wounds when they moved.

In 1872, the disease was named “causalgia” until 1946, a term that would remain until 1994, when it was formally codified as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). The objective of the change was to take the emphasis away from irrelevant terms such as dystrophy, reflex, and sympathy back to a more appropriate, if not simpler, designation.


For those suffering from CRPS, formerly known as causalgia and RSD, what’s in a name is irrelevant. Medical experts at odds will always try to put their stamp on a debilitating disease that prevents people from not only enjoying life but also continuing their professional careers.



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