Nov. 07, 2011
It started as a twisted ankle - a simple sprain. But then the pain never went away. In fact, it worsened, and spread, travelling from the ankle up the leg and into the hip. Then over to the other foot, and into both hands.
Seven years later, Christine Sawyer, 39, of Woodstock, still lives each day in agony. A normal day brings throbbing pain with pins and needles. A bad day feels like shooting electrical shocks, with swelling and burning or alternatively deep blue, icy cold hands and feet.
“It has changed my whole life,” says the mother of two. “I’m not able to do anything I used to. I try to exert myself but am then out for the count I’m in so much pain. And people don’t get it. They don’t understand. They don’t think the pain is real.”
Sawyer suffers from complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a rare but very real chronic pain problem. The condition typically develops after an injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack, but the pain is out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury and it persists and often increases, explains Dr. Pat Morley-Forster, Medical Director of the Pain Management Program of St. Joseph’s Health Care London. Usually affecting an arm or leg, patients often experience dramatic changes in the color and temperature of the skin, accompanied by intense burning pain, skin sensitivity, sweating, and swelling.
While Sawyer relies on St. Joseph’s Pain Management Program for pain control, a new initiative at St. Joseph’s is addressing the loneliness and despair people with CRPS often feel. The Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Support Group is offering a much-needed dose of hope, camaraderie and confidence for people with the condition.
“The group is an important source of information, fellowship and strength for those with CRPS,” says nurse Cathy Lowery, who led its development. “It’s an outlet for patients to share experiences and coping advice, and to learn from experts on a variety of topics.”
CRPS is more common in Southwestern Ontario than other regions because of the large industrial workforce, says Dr. Collin Clarke, anesthesiologist and pain management specialist. About eight per cent of St. Joseph’s pain patients have CRPS, says the physician whose neuroimaging research aims at better understanding the pain pathways of CRPS and improving management of the condition.
The next support group will be held Nov. 26, 1;30 pm at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Room E1-122.
For more information, please contact:
Dahlia Reich, Communication and Public Affairs
St. Joseph’s Health Care London
Phone: 519 646-6100 ext. 65294
About St. Joseph’s Pain Management Program
At the Pain Management Program of St. Joseph’s Health Care London, a multidisciplinary team of anesthesiologists, physiatrists, neurologists, psychologist, pharmacists and nurses provides assessment and a wide range of treatment for people with chronic, non-cancer pain. Leading-edge research, meanwhile, is looking at new ways to manage pain and is turning discovery into care.
About St. Joseph’s Health Care London
St. Joseph’s Health Care London is leading patient care, teaching and research centre in Canada with a distinguished legacy of service to London, Southwestern Ontario and the veterans of Canada, dating back more than 130 years. St. Joseph’s five key role areas include acute/ambulatory care, complex care and veterans care, long-term care, rehabilitation and specialized geriatrics and specialized mental health care. Facilities and services including St. Joseph’s Hospital, Parkwood Hospital, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care and Regional Mental Health Care London and St. Thomas are part of the St. Joseph’s family. Our research arm, the Lawson Health Research Institute, continues to direct their research to the development of new knowledge that is continually being applied directly to patient care. St. Joseph’s is affiliated with the University of Western Ontario.