Objective: To report the initial and long-term outcome after an intensive exercise therapy program for childhood complex regional pain syndrome, type I (CRPS).
Design: Prospective follow-up.
Setting: A children's hospital.
Subjects: We followed 103 children (87 girls; mean age = 13.0 years) with CRPS. Forty-nine subjects were followed for more than 2 years (mean = 5 years 3 months).
Interventions: An intensive exercise program (most received a daily program of 4 hours of aerobic, functionally directed exercises, 1-2 hours of hydrotherapy, and desensitization). No medications or modalities were used. All had a screening psychological evaluation, and 79 (77%) were referred for psychological counseling.
Main outcome measures: Outcomes included pain, presence of physical dysfunction, or recurrent episodes of CRPS or other disproportional musculoskeletal pain.
Results: The mean duration of exercise therapy was 14 days, but over the past 2 years has decreased to 6 days. Ninety-five children (92%) initially became symptom free. Of those followed for more than 2 years, 43 (88%) were symptom free (15, or 31 %, of these patients had had a reoccurrence), 5 (10%) were fully functional but had some continued pain, and 1 (2%) had functional limitations. The median time to recurrence was 2 months; 79% of the recurrences were during the first 6 months after treatment.
Conclusion: Intense exercise therapy is effective in initially treating childhood CRPS and is associated with low rate of long-term symptoms or dysfunction.