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Chronic Pain In Your Limbs May Be Due To Abnormal Brain Signals

People with CRPS have chronic pain but are often unaware about it. The new revelation attempts to tie a connection between brain signals and limb pain

Chronic Pain In Your Limbs May Be Due To Abnormal Brain Signals

CRPS is characterised by swelling, muscular sensations and pain in the limbs


  1. CRPS is characterised by swelling, temperature changes and back pain
  2. Overall incidence of CRPS in India is around 26.2 per 100,000
  3. Unprocessed brain signals leads to chronic pain syndrome

A UK based study has sparked glimmers of hope for those suffering from chronic pain. The study has come up with a revelation that can help researchers develop new treatments for pain management. The findings at the university of Bath and Oxford (UK) suggest that a rare chronic pain condition might involve changes in the way that the brain processes visual information, which could provide new insights into how to treat the condition. People who have prolonged or chronic pain suffer from a poorly understood condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

According to medical reports, estimated overall incidence of CRPS in India is around 26.2 per 100,000 people. Individuals with this syndrome report debilitating pain in an arm or leg, as well as swelling, temperature changes and movement difficulties. Symptoms include burning, stabbing, stinging or throbbing pain in the affected limb along with everyday sensations such as a breeze blowing across the skin which causes immense pain, if not treated on time.

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The scientists at Bath and Oxford wanted to understand more about how and why individuals suffering from CRPS report lose track of the position of their painful limb and are unable able to move that particular limb. The team examined how quickly people with CRPS processed visual information in the side of their painful limb compared to the other side of the environment.

The researchers used laser pointers controlled by a computer to project two flashes of light onto the left and right side of a board that was placed in front of the patients. The patients had to say which light appeared first. The results showed that people with CRPS processed the light on the affected side of the board more slowly than the light on the unaffected side, revealing that information which is nearer to the affected side of the body is not well processed by the brain.

Also Read Can Chronic Pain Increase Your Risk Of Death?

The causes of this occurrence is yet to be known but it is speculated that abnormal brain signals about the limb play a major role in causing pain. CRPS generally follows limb damage from injury or surgery, but the pain experienced is disproportionate and may last longer than expected. According to health experts, most people recover well within a year and some of them retain few symptoms for many weeks, months and years.

According to Dr Janet Bultitude from the University of Bath's Centre for Pain Research, "People with CRPS are usually in constant pain that they can't ignore. But interestingly, they often report that they are not sure where their painful limb is unless they look at it directly, and that movements are not automatic. The odd sensations they experience suggest there could be a change in systems that normally allow us to process information at different locations in the space around us.

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Existing treatments for CRPS include pain medications and rehabilitation therapies which normalizes sensation in the limb and improve function and mobility. Dr Bultitude and her team are now investigating whether the symptoms of CRPS could be reduced by therapies used to treat attention problems in people with brain injuries such as stroke.

(With inputs from ANI)

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