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Case Study | Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

After a car accident, all bets are off. Some people walk away with no lasting issues, others are not so lucky. One such patient, let’s call her Jennifer, needed a fusion of L5/S1 due to spondylolisthesis following her car accident. After the surgery her back felt a little better but her leg, especially the foot, felt much worse. After her first round(s) of physical therapy and referral to a pain specialist she was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and sent to see me.

To put it mildly, CRPS is a difficult condition to treat. The general medical consensus is that people with CRPS either can get somewhat better but they have a hard road ahead of them or they may just never get better. More recently therapists and physicians have begun utilizing modalities intended to re-map the brain associated with the painful region of the body, imagined movements and mirror therapy to decrease and sometimes eliminate the pain associated with CRPS. Alone, this was mildly helpful for our this patient so we added integrative dry needling and energy medicine to the pain science education and graded motor imagery.

We began with needling of homeostatic points of the head, neck and upper extremities in combination with education about what her energetic anatomy is and shamanic healing techniques.. Initially this patient didn’t notice much change in her foot pain but as time went on we were able to utilize homeostatic points in her unaffected lower extremity and then a few visits later we were able to add needles into the homeostatic points of the affected lower extremity. Throughout this time the patient began reporting an increased frequency of “good foot days” and even asking if she could get more needles into her foot!

After about 15 treatments in total the patient has become pain free in her foot but began noticing a prominent SI joint pain which is likely consistent with sacral and root center related trauma. This is likely the underlying cause of the foot pain and will likely need a collaboration with mental health counseling to fully resolve.

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