What Is An RSD Injury?

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, commonly referred to as “RSD,” is a chronic condition that involves excessive pain, typically in a person’s arms, legs, hands, or feet.

What causes RSD?

Some cases of RSD occur when an individual sustains a serious tissue injury, but no damage to the underlying nerve systems.

In other cases, an RSD injury occurs when an individual is injured by a high-velocity impact that damages both the person’s tissue and underlying nerves. This is typical of victims in high impact car crashes.

In other cases still, an RSD injury can follow a musculoskeletal injury, invasive surgery, or long-term immobilization.

When a person is suffering a from an RSD injury, their nervous and immune system are consistently malfunctioning as they both respond to tissue damage. Though a wound or injury might heal, the person’s nerves constantly misfire, relaying incorrect pain signals to the brain.

The human body uses pain as a relay warning to the brain. Pain tells the brain the activity is harmful to the body. Tragically, an individual suffering from RSD will continually receive these painful warnings when no external harm is happening.

What are RSD’s symptoms?

These are common, telltale signs of an RSD injury:

  1. Deep pain, often described as aching, cold, or burning;
  2. An increase in skin sensitivity or tenderness;
  3. An injury or traumatic body event, such as a sprain, fracture, or minor surgery, that causes inordinate residual pain levels or pain levels that do not decrease as the initial injury heals;
  4. Allodynia, or pain from something that should not cause the human body pain;
  5. Heightened sensitivity to pain;
  6. Abnormal levels of swelling in the injured part of the body;
  7. Atypical hair or nail growth;
  8. Skin discoloration;
  9. Differing internal body temperatures;
  10. Increased sweating in the injured area of the body;
  11. Limited range of motion;
  12. Fatigue, weakness, and other motor-based disorders.

While these symptoms are typical of an RSD injury, it is not an exhaustive list.

Bear in mind that every affected individual suffers from a variety of different symptoms. This is because RSD is an unusual disorder in that it affects the nerves, skin, muscles, blood vessels and bones simultaneously.

Are there any other names for an RSD Injury?

RSD injuries were first documented in American Civil War veterans who were suffering persistent pain in their extremities long after their wounds had healed.

Since then, RSD injuries have been known by a few different names. Today it is sometimes referred to as “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome” or CRPS. In the past it has been called “causalgia.”