Patient Information Resources

Centre for Orthopaedics
Suite 10-33/34/35 Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
38 Irrawaddy Road
Singapore, 329563, Singapore
Ph: (65) 6684 5828
Fax: (65) 6684 5829

Child Orthopedics
Pain Management
Spine - Cervical
Spine - General
Spine - Lumbar
Spine - Thoracic

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Mother broke her elbow last winter when she slipped and fell on the ice. The fracture took a very long time to heal. Then she had constant pain and other troubling symptoms. The doctor refers to this as CRPS. Now she is starting to have a problem straightening her fingers out. Her hand wants to stay in a fist. Are these things happening to her because she's older (82 years old)?

CRPS stands for complex regional pain syndrome. CRPS occurs in many people after some kind of trauma. Fracture is a common injury to set it off. With CRPS there is pain, swelling, and abnormal sensitivity to any touch. The skin may start to sweat and grow dark patches of hair.

The abnormal posturing of her hand may be a secondary problem called dystonia. Once CRPS develops, dystonia can occur any time from right away to up to five years later. Not everyone with CRPS has dystonia. Studies report a wide range from nine to 49% of patients who have CRPS-induced dystonia.

The two problems you've described here are fairly common but don't seem to be linked with age. Women are more affected than men but the reason for this remains unknown. The question often asked is: what went wrong? The answer lies in the nervous system's processing of sensory information.

Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what went haywire but so far the exact mechanism remains unclear. More studies are being done to find ways to treat CRPS and dystonia. The goal is to prevent these problems from happening in the first place.


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