Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD) NJ Doctor's

A recent study showed patients had seen on average 4.8 physicians before referral to a pain center.

What is RSD?

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD) is a chronic neurological syndrome. It is categorized by the following symptoms:

severe burning pain
pathological changes in bone and skin
excessive sweating
tissue swelling
extreme sensitivity to touch


Early intervention is essential. If individuals are diagnosed within six months of the onset of symptoms and treated appropriately, the disease often goes into remission. However, if RSD is left untreated for several months, the likelihood of successful treatment is sharply diminished.

The cause of RSD is unknown. The damaged nerves of the sympathetic nervous system send often incorrect signals to the brain that interfere with the normal functions of sensation, temperature and blood flow. RSD can effect any age, race or gender but it is most common in women between the ages of 40-60 but the number of RSD cases among teens and young adults is increasing. RSD is primarily diagnosed by observation of symptoms and the prognosis for the illness is good, especially if treatment is begun early. Injection of a local anesthetic, such as lidocaine is often one of the first steps in treatment. Physical therapy and elevation of the affected limb can often help to keep the muscles active and there are several prescription medications that can help to alleviate the pain.

There are Two Types of RSD - Type I and Type II.

  • RSD Type I - cases in which the nerve injury cannot be immediately identified
  • RSD Type II - cases in which a distinct "major" nerve injury has occurred
  • RSD/CRPS is best described in terms of an injury to a nerve or soft tissue that does not follow the normal healing path.
  • RSD/CRPS development does not appear to depend on the magnitude of the injury. The sympathetic nervous system seems to assume an abnormal function after an injury
  • Since there is no single laboratory test to diagnose RSD/CRPS, the physician must assess and document both subjective complaints (medical history) and, if present, objective findings (physical examination).