Research reveals health professionals must better understand patients with CRPS

14 June 2022

CONTENT WARNING: This story includes references to suicide and thoughts of self-harm. If you need resources or support around these issues' help is available – call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

A study conducted on people who suffer from complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) has been released today (Jun 14)' prompting a call for health professionals to better understand how to support patients with CRPS.

Authored by CQUniversity lecturer and Assistant Head of Course for the Master of Clinical Nursing Dr Colleen Johnston-Devin' the paper found that overwhelmingly' participants felt that health professionals did not know enough about CRPS' or chronic pain' and believed their health outcomes were affected by the lack of knowledge.

"People with CRPS want all health professionals to know not to touch them without asking for permission first'" Dr Johnston-Devin explained of the findings.

"Other findings were that it is important to develop a relationship between the patient and the practitioner'" she said.

"Once a relationship is established' the health professional is in a better place to determine if the person is catastrophising or has legitimate health concerns.

"It is very hard to describe CRPS' and signs and symptoms do not often make sense - therefore health professionals must be educated about CRPS."

Nicknamed the 'suicide disease'' CRPS is a chronic pain condition that has been reported to be the most painful condition experienced.

"Being quite rare' it is mostly not known within the health professional community and is even less known within the general public'" Dr Johnston-Devin explained.

"No one really knows what causes it but there is an abnormal response to injury' altered nervous system function' autoimmune components' abnormal inflammatory response and brain changes.

"It can occur spontaneously but usually occurs after an injury which could be anything from a broken bone or ligament' bruise' or even getting blood taken."

Dr Johnston-Devin said there was no cure for CRPS but most people improved within the first 12 months.

"The consequences of having CRPS can be debilitating and people with CRPS generally have a poorer quality of life' and a higher risk of suicide than people with other chronic pain conditions.

"Improvement is possible if treatment is started early but unfortunately lack of knowledge often causes delayed diagnosis."

Titled Educational considerations for health professionals to effectively work with clients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)' the paper' published in PLOS ONE' reveals that patients want health professionals to refer them to another practitioner sooner rather than later if they were not sure what was going on.

Dr Johnston-Devin said that for true patient-centred care to be achieved' health professionals must accept and respect patients' descriptions of pain and their pain experience.

"This may require additional health professional education at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels in pain and communication to increase their bedside manner and therapeutic communication to deliver care in partnership with the patient."

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