Reflex sympathetic dystrophy can be a severely disabling and painful condition. This syndrome is a complex nervous system malfunction that is sometimes precipitated by an injury at work. In many cases, afflicted employees must spend years away from work or retire completely. Workers’ compensation attorneys in Chicago know that RSD is often eligible for disability benefits.

An introduction to reflex sympathetic dystrophy

RSD is known by a number of names, including causalgia, reflex neurovascular dystrophy and complex regional pain syndrome. It often begins in a single leg or arm and gradually spreads to other areas of the body. The resulting pain and swelling can be immobilizing. About one-third of patients report symptoms affecting the whole body, according to the Clinical Journal of Pain.

Common symptoms of RSD

The most common symptoms of RSD include the following:

  • Severe pain in limbs
  • Unexplained swelling
  • Changes in the skin
  • Acute or chronic inflammation
  • Fainting or falling
  • Joint stiffness and tenderness

All of these symptoms are caused by neurological malfunctions in the limbs and other parts of the body. In some cases, they are difficult to diagnose. They may be mistaken for symptoms of other diseases. Workers’ compensation attorneys in Chicago know that many patients wait for years before a proper diagnosis of RSD.

Therapy for RSD

There is no single known cure for RSD. A range of treatments may be helpful for patients. Some of the most effective approaches include transcutaneous nerve stimulation, physical therapy, motor imagery and tactile desensitization. Many patients find success with progressive weight bearing. People who are unable to support any weight on their feet and legs may achieve an improvement in function when their activity is gradually increased. In some cases, physical therapy may be carried out under anesthesia to reverse the effects of long-term pain and immobility.

Long-term prognosis for RSD

The long-term prognosis for RSD varies from one patient to another. When treatment begins shortly after diagnosis, recovery may be relatively quick and complete. Delays in treatment can cause the neurological condition to spread to the whole body and cause permanent changes in nerve impulses or muscle structure. In advanced cases of RSD, treatment may be focused primarily on managing symptoms.

RSD patients have options

People who are living with reflex sympathetic dystrophy have options. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, more than 90 percent of cases are caused by injury or trauma. Have you begun to suffer complex limb pain after a work accident? You might find it helpful to talk about your case with workers’ compensation attorneys in Chicago.