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RSD: A Painful and Perplexing Condition

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD) is a nervous system disorder that results from a physically painful event, such as a slip and fall, surgery or a car accident. RSD is also associated with soft tissue injuries with no noticeable nerve damage — such as strains or sprains from a relatively minor work injury. Studies estimate that in nearly 35 percent of RSD cases, there is no known trigger. Often the pain is inconsistent with the injury. In recent years, former American Idol judge Paula Abdul brought media attention to her long-term battle with RSD that was triggered by a high school cheerleading accident.

RSD victims frequently experience excruciating, unceasing pain commonly described as being on fire. RSD is noticeable by the following diverse symptoms:

  • Alterations in skin color
  • Burning sensations
  • Hair and nail growth pattern changes
  • Spinal cord problems
  • Immoderate sweating
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Heart problems
  • Joint stiffness

Doctors believe a patient’s emotional stress worsens the effects of RSD. RSD impedes many victims from performing their everyday functions. Because of their decreased quality of life, RSD patients can also suffer from depression. The McGill Pain Index classifies RSD as the most tormenting chronic pain known today.

RSD’s principal challenge is diagnosis, due to its unusual symptoms. Occasionally, RSD goes into remission, although, a reoccurrence can occur much later in another part of the body. Another challenge is pain management. Pain management doctors disagree over how to best and effectively treat RSD. While there is some consensus that medication, diet and exercise can be effective treatments collectively, doctors disagree over what exact combinations of the three to use. Research towards a cure of this perplexing condition continues.

If you suffer from RSD and you think it is the result of a personal injury you sustained in California, our Santa Barbara law firm can provide qualified legal counsel on your behalf.