Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
Other Names: Causalgia, Shoulder-Hand Syndrome, Sudeck’s Atrophy.
What it is: A complex of symptoms characterized by any or all of the following: pain, swelling, stiffness, altered sensation, temperature and
skin changes (discoloration, increased sweating,…). The severity of these symptoms can be much greater than would be otherwise
expected from the initiating trauma or disease.
Cause: Probably an abnormal reflex in part of the nervous system triggered by any upper extremity disorder, especially following injury,
surgery or burns.
Treatment: Therapy, mostly in the form of active hand use, is the most important aspect of the treatment. Anesthetic injections
(sympathetic blocks) and medications are also used on occasion. Recovery is very slow, and often incomplete.
Treatment: The best defense against this crippling disease is prevention through active use of the hand, especially in the face of
swelling or pain.