Understanding RSD/CRPS
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

RSD(S)-CRPS Advisory
We have all been united by a single
common denominator and that is...
Understanding RSD/CRPS
by Twinkle Vanfleet/rsdcrpsfire

I've come to understand RSD/CRPS as our bodies taking on an abnormal healing path after
an injury. Our bodies own automatic computer has two divisions.

The parasympathetic - otherwise known as the "calm" side
The sympathetic - commonly known as the "fight or flight"

The two of them act as brothers fighting to control our bodies. Ultimately our body is
in balance when no one side is dominant.

Both our calm side and our fight or flight side are equal but basic pain is a protective
response mainly connected to the sympathetic side (imagine accidentally sticking your
hand near fire.. we automatically and instinctively "fly" away from it).

People with CRPS become off balance because the fight flight part of the system is
stimulated all of the time and so it grows stronger.

The Compass Center for Functional Restoration describes and taught me that CRPS as a
disease of the nerves using an analogy of a car alarm. I've used a similar analogy
several times even before attending the center, but this is the clearest I've ever been
taught it..

Our pain nerves serve as the alarm to alert us if there is any damage to the car, such
as a broken window when a thief attempts to steal the car. But sometimes car alarms are
famous for going off just because a truck rolled by, or the wind blew the car, or
sometimes for no apparent reason at all. Patients with CRPS have such a sensitive alarm,
it sounds off seemingly all of the time.

For many people there may have been some original danger, such as a broken bone, or a
twisted ligament, and for most people the original damage has been treated and has
healed. But the alarm still sounds. As a result of the natural defense mechanisms of the
body, including the immune system and nerves, bring more attention to the area to try to
protect or heal it. This results in increased reactions of the body such as sweating,
temperature differences, color changes, swelling and most of all pain.

While continuing this analogy, most car alarms that go off with little input also have a
back up timer. The purpose of the timer is to shut off the alarm to prevent draining the

Because of lack of coping strategies many CRPS patients have lost this essential timer.
When their alarm goes off, the results become an increase of symptoms that can continue
for days or longer.

This pattern of a flare up frequently creates a scenario where the person ends up simply
isolating themselves into their room or bed and attempts to "rest and wait" for the pain
to calm down. (
Compass Center for Functional Restoration)

CRPS is best described in terms of an injury to a nerve or soft tissue (e.g. broken
bone) that does not follow the normal healing path. (
CRPS development does ot appear to depend on the magnitude of the injury. The
sympathetic nervous system seems to assume an abnormal function after an injury.

To further the "rest and wait" noted, many of us also do this waiting for a cure. Nearly
all of us do. We stop living and "wait". This is why it is essential to learn to live
despite the pain. We all know this is easier said than done, however, it really is our
only choice.

©2010 Twinkle V./rsdcrpsfire RSD(s)-CRPS Advisory All rights reserved.

All information above (including all portions re-written in my own words) I've shared
with you from my CRPS Therapy Protocol Handbook from the
Sacramento Pain Clinic's
Center for Functional Restoration-
Compass. I have been granted expressed personal and
written permission to use content for purposes of teaching and have cited
RSDSA as an
additional source.  All rights reserved..

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"I will walk... when I cannot
walk, I will carry myself,
when I cannot carry myself...
I will fly!"
Written while attending Compass Center for
Functional Restoration. © 2009
RSD Advisor (CRPS Advisory Mirror)