Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), also called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), is a chronic neurological syndrome in which an injury to nerve or soft tissue does not heal properly and the sympathetic nerve system functions abnormally. The condition results in “severe burning pain, pathological changes in bone and skin, excessive sweating, tissue swelling and extreme sensitivity to touch.”
The goal of treating RSD is to restore sensation, promote normal position, minimize edema, decrease muscle guarding and increase the patient’s ability to live a normal life by performing necessary, daily functions. Treatments include physical therapy and steroid injection. There are times when severe allodynia (extreme pain with stimuli that normally wouldn’t cause pain; i.e. a light touch from even a strand of hair) may prevent manual physical therapy treatment or the insertion of a needle for necessary steroid injections.
This is where trigger point therapy may be useful because the trigger point is distant from the area of allodynia. Manipulating the trigger point may relieve the pain enabling further procedures that were previously impossible. A study in the Journal of the Chiropractic and Osteopathic College of Australasia found this to be true when a patient with severe allodynia responded well to daily myofascial trigger point (MTrP) therapy and was able to continue with physical therapy and steroid injections. After two months of continued MTrP therapy, physical therapy and steroid injections, the patient was nearly pain free and had full range of motion.
If you or someone you know is having difficulty with RSDA treatments, talk to your practitioner about myofascial trigger point therapy and call a licensed massage therapist today for more information!
1. Hong CZ. Specific sequential myofascial trigger point therapy in the treatment of a patient with myofascial pain syndrome associated with reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Australas Chiropr Osteopathy. 2000 Mar;9(1):7-11.
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