January 21, 2004
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome among topics to be discussed at Mississippi Pain Society's annual meeting
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Imagine being in so much pain that you can’t even tolerate the weight of a blanket on your toes.
That’s the plight of some who suffer from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), one of many chronic pain conditions to be discussed at the sixth annual meeting of the Mississippi Pain Society.
The meeting is scheduled for Jan. 23 and 24 at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson and will include presentations by anesthesiologists, rehabilitation medicine physicians, orthopedic surgeons, psychologists, psychiatrists, case managers, nurses and occupational and physical therapists.
“The number of disciplines involved just shows you how complex the treatment of chronic pain can be,” said society president Joe Jacobson, director of outpatient services at Methodist. “That’s why the trend today is toward a team approach.”
Chronic pain affects an estimated 90 million Americans and costs the nation more than $125 billion annually in health care costs, disability compensation, lost productivity and tax revenue.
Jacobson said the Mississippi Pain Society strives to help stymie such losses by educating its members on the latest techniques for diagnosing, treating and preventing chronic pain conditions. Topics for the annual meeting include post-stroke shoulder pain, fibromyalgia, interventions for back pain and national policies and regulations regarding pain management.
“Early intervention is critical, and that’s one reason we are highlighting CRPS,” Jacobson said. “It’s one syndrome that really benefits from early and aggressive treatment.”
Previously known as “Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy” and “Causalgia,” the syndrome is characterized by burning pain, swelling, discolored skin and extreme sensitivity to touch or temperature changes, said Dr. Jeffrey Laseter, a pain specialist at Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s East Campus in Flowood.
The syndrome is associated with injuries such as a fracture or strain, and is thought to be a nervous system disorder. Left untreated, it can lead to a debilitating loss of function that can become permanent.
“The pain can cause people to limit use of the affected area, resulting in joint stiffness and bone-thinning,” Dr. Laseter said. “Eventually, the extremity can get so drawn and constricted that the patient is disabled.”
To help prevent such outcomes, Laseter says the latest treatment involves injecting a local anesthetic into a specific part of the nervous system associated with the patient’s pain. “This interrupts the nerve transmission and resets that part of the nervous system. The purpose is to give pain relief and facilitate physical therapy.”
Once physical therapy begins, Laseter said a patient often can reclaim lost function. “I had one patient who was injured when a heavy cart rolled over her foot. She had such severe burning and sensitivity she couldn’t even let the covers touch her feet at night. We did several nerve blocks combined with physical therapy and she was able to go back to work and function. At this point, she can exercise and has very little pain.”