Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome - Treatment

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What kinds of treatment, including medication, have you tried for your RSD?

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What is the treatment for reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)?

Response to treatment of RSD is greater in the earlier stages of the condition than in the later stages.

  • Cool, moist applications to the affected areas can provide some relief of burning symptoms.
  • Gradual exercise can help prevent contractures.
  • Medications for pain and inflammation can also reduce symptoms.
  • For persisting symptoms, high doses of prednisone (cortisone) may be used for periods of weeks, depending on the response, and then gradually reduced.
  • Other medications that may be of benefit include amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep), pregabalin (Lyrica), and clonidine (Catapres, Catapres=TTS, Jenloga).
  • Occasionally, a nerve block with anesthetic injected into a specialized area of the involuntary nervous system (for example, a stellate ganglion blockade) can help both in treatment and in establishing the diagnosis. Sometimes a series of these blocks is tried.
  • Other treatments include surgically interrupting the nerves (the sympathetic nerves) of the involuntary nervous system (surgical sympathectomy), implanting pumps with pain medication into the spinal canal (intrathecal drug pumps), and spinal cord stimulation devices.
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Comment from: Debbie R., 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: March 13

I've found that swimming works wonders. I tried the spinal block but it didn't work, I have severe nerve damage to my right foot/ankle. My doctor was trying to straighten out my leg after a total knee replacement/fall out of hospital bed. I had nerve conduction test that showed my nerves are nonexistent and also got atrophy from having leg in cast for 6 months. My skin is shiny, no hair growth, and I have constant burning, swelling and sweating.

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Comment from: Terri, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: February 14

I broke my ankle and luckily was diagnosed with RSD approximately 1 month later. We treated it aggressively; 3 lumbar sympathetic nerve blocks, intensive physical therapy, and hydrocodone for the pain. Initially all I could do was wiggle my big toe. Another big help was swimming. I started out just simply learning how to walk again in waist deep water. Then I would swim 1 lap, then 2 more, and so on each day. I"m convinced this was a huge help. I started to walk without crutches after 6 months and was in physical therapy for almost 1 year. It took about 2 years to get back to normal. Still the affected leg is a bit weaker 5 years later, but I"m in total remission. Key is early diagnosis and a take no prisoners attitude. Trust your gut, the 1st orthopedist kept insisting it was just a badly broken leg. I knew it was something else - the pain was almost unbearable. I sought 2nd opinion within 1 month and he nailed the diagnosis in 5 minutes. Be persistent and keep on swimming.

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