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Papers of the Week

Papers: 23 Feb 2019 - 1 Mar 2019


Human Studies

2019 Apr 24

Scand J Pain



Symptom reduction and improved function in chronic CRPS type 1 after 12-week integrated, interdisciplinary therapy.


Elomaa M, Hotta J, de C Williams AC, Forss N, Äyräpää A, Kalso E, Harno H
Scand J Pain. 2019 Apr 24; 19(2):257-270.
PMID: 30789827.


Background and aims Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) often recovers spontaneously within the first year, but when it becomes chronic, available rehabilitative therapies (pharmacological management, physiotherapy, and psychological intervention) have limited effectiveness. This study examined the effect of a 12-week intensive outpatient rehabilitation on pain relief and function in chronic CRPS patients. Rehabilitation program included memantine and morphine treatment (added to patient's prior pain medication) and concurrent psychological and physiotherapeutic intervention. Primary outcome measure was a change in CRPS symptom count and secondary outcomes were motor performance, psychological factors, pain intensity, and quality of life. Methods Ten patients with chronic upper limb CRPS I (median 2.9 years, range 8 months to 12 years) were recruited to the study and were assessed before and after the intervention. Hand motor function of the patients was evaluated by an independent physiotherapist. There were standardized questionnaires for depression, pain anxiety, pain acceptance, quality of life, and CRPS symptom count. In addition, psychological factors were evaluated by a semi-structured interview. Severity of experienced pain was rated at movement and at rest. In addition, a video experiment of a hand action observation was conducted pre- and post-intervention to study possible change in neuronal maladaptation. Intervention consisted of pharmacological, psychological and physiotherapeutic treatment. First, 10 mg daily morphine was started and increased gradually to 30 mg daily, if tolerated. After 30 mg/day or tolerated dose of morphine was achieved, 5 mg daily memantine was started and increased gradually to 40 mg, if tolerated. Psychological intervention consisted of weekly group sessions, using cognitive and behavioral methods (relaxation, behavioral activation, and exposure) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and daily home practice. Physiotherapeutic intervention consisted of graded motor imagery and physiotherapy exercises with weekly group sessions and/or individual guidance by the physiotherapist, and individual exercise of the affected upper limb. Results Multimodal intensive intervention resulted in significant decrease in CRPS symptom count. The effect was strongest in motor and trophic symptoms (19% decrease after intervention) and in sensory symptoms (18% decrease). Additionally, improvement was seen in some, but not all, secondary outcomes (movement pain, motor symptoms, change in perceptions during video experiment of hand actions, and summary index with motor functioning, pain, and psychological factors). There were no dropouts. Conclusions Intensive 12-week multimodal intervention reduced some CRPS symptoms but was not sufficient to alter patients' rest pain, distress, or quality of life. Implications These results support the efficacy of an interdisciplinary rehabilitation program for pain and function in chronic CRPS patients. After intervention, some CRPS symptoms reduced and function improved, but distress and quality of life were unchanged. This may be due to the relatively short duration of this program; to delayed effects; to particular cognitive problems of CPRS patients; and/or to low distress levels at baseline that make statistically significant reduction less likely.