Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) is a condition that causes lasting pain and is usually caused due to an injury to your hand or feet. It involves an abnormal response of the nervous system, particularly the sympathetic nervous system. During RSD, your sympathetic nervous system gets mixed signals. It gets activated after an injury but doesn’t turn back off. This results in the occurrence of pain and swelling at the injury site.
RSD initially affects one limb but then slowly spread throughout the body. Statistics show that 35% of affected people report symptoms throughout their whole body. It is also believed to occur after an illness or injury with little to no direct evidence of nerve damage in the affected limb. Generally, symptoms can increase gradually after the injury. During this stage severity of pain is typically worse than the original injury itself.
While medically the exact cause of the disease is unknown, a number of cases have actually been treated successfully. It is recommended that if RSD is suspected, then treatment be started at the earliest to prevent prolonging of symptoms and increase of symptoms.
While the exact cause of RSD is still unknown, medicine has managed to narrow it down to a disruption of the normal functioning of the Sensory Nervous System. This can happen in the event of a number of causes such as:
During RSD, the symptoms show up slowly. Initially, the patient might report pain, but over time it may get worse. Some might even report an abnormal level of pain.
The major symptoms of RSD include:
It is difficult to detect RSD until the patient has had it for some time. Generally, an abnormally higher level of pain than what should be expected for a type of injury can be the first sign of an RSD.
While there is no single test to definitively confirm whether you have RSD we rely on a physical exam and medical history. There are however a few tests that can provide clues to see if you have certain signs of the condition. These include:
Physiotherapy has been proven to be really helpfulto alleviate the symptoms of RSD. A physical therapist can help alleviate the pain while promoting muscle strength required for performing simple daily activities. It is advisable to seek treatment options as early as possible on suspecting RSD to prevent worsening of conditions. Some of the common physical therapy options that are available can be summarized as follows.