Outcomes of a Simple Treatment for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type I in Children

Iowa Orthop J. 2015;35:175-80.


Background: Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome type I (CRPSI) in children is a disorder of unknown etiology. No standard diagnostic criteria or treatment exists. Published treatment protocols are often time and resource intensive. Nonetheless, CRPSI is not rare and can be disabling. This reports the results of a simple and inexpensive treatment protocol involving no medicines, nerve blockades, physical therapy resources or referrals to pain specialists. The patient is instructed in a self-administered massage and mobilization program. The diagnosis required allodynia (pain on light touch of the skin) and signs or the history of signs of autonomic dysfunction.

Methods: A chart review of patient coded for "reflex sympathetic dystrophy" or 'autonomic dysfunction" was performed yielding a cohort of eighty-three patients treated by a common protocol. Most patients were identified in the last 15 years. Most patients with this CRPSI were doubtless coded simply as "foot pain" or "knee pain", etc and were not identified in this search. Charts were reviewed for patient demographics and outcomes. A subset of patients filled out the Pediatric Outcomes Data Collection Instrument (PODCI) giving a validated pre-treatment disability measure.

Results: The cohort characteristics were similar to prior reports with respect to age, gender, location, and history of trauma. Of the 26 patients who completed the PODCI before treatment the Pain/Comfort Core Scale score mean was 20.81(0-63). The Global Functioning Scale score mean was 52.11(27-83.5). Eighty-nine percent of 51 patients who attended clinic until their outcome was definite had no or minimal residual pain. Treatment averaged 2.2 visits per patient, typically over a six-week period.

Conclusions: A simple, inexpensive protocol can be effective in treating CRPSI in children. The protocol is risk free, inexpensive to families and conservative of physician and physical therapy resources.

Level of evidence: Therapeutic Level IV.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Pain / therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes / psychology
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes / therapy*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / methods
  • Pain Measurement
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome