“I cried happy tears when I got the diagnosis,” Sally said. “Maybe that sounds crazy. Being diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome isn’t good news… But getting that diagnosis gave me a sense of relief. My pain had a name. I remember thinking at the time, ‘Now that we know what it is, we can treat it.’ So, there was relief… and then the other boot dropped…”
They didn’t know how to treat it. What they said, more or less, was, ‘there are no current treatment options that offer a long-term positive outcome.’ Translation: We can’t help you, so you better get used to this pain.
Well… I’m the kind of person who won’t back down from a challenge. Did that attitude get me in this situation to begin with? You could say that. That horse I tried to ride made it clear he was not ready to be ridden. I disagreed. We argued. He won. I don’t remember much about the fall, but I do remember waking up with back hurting and my foot wrapped tight and in a splint halfway to my knee. They talked about spinal surgery, and, as soon as I heard that, I wasn’t thinking about my ankle or my foot anymore. They said nothing in my leg or foot was broken, so why worry?
After the spine surgery, my doctors said the procedure ‘went well.’ It was ‘successful’ and I was ‘fortunate.’ Recovery went well too. No infection or other possible issues. Everything was healing up as expected. Except… there was still pain. Especially in my foot. That made no sense. I had stayed off it, kept it wrapped until they said unwrap it. I had decent flexibility and range of motion. Negative x-rays. So, no problem, right? Wrong.
The pain was way more than it should have been. I’ve been around horses all my life. Grew up riding, jumping, training, you name it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stepped on. It hurts. You ice it. You get over it. You get back in the saddle. Except, I wasn’t getting over it. Instead of back in the saddle, I went back to the doctor. They did all the poking and prodding and pictures. Nothing. No break. No dislocation. No noticeable soft tissue damage. There was just intense pain. And—this was weird—my foot was hypersensitive to touch. The least little bump made my foot feel like it was on fire.
The doctor diagnosed me with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and suggested a few short-term pain relief options. I asked about long-term solutions. Silence. Sympathetic expressions… Sorry, there’s nothing we can do.
That didn’t sit well with me. No one knows everything, but I figured if my condition had a name, and if there really were about 200,000 people in the U.S. living with CRPS, someone had to be working on an effective treatment. So, I researched. Talked to other doctors, tried the internet, waded through a bunch of information that left me confused and discouraged. I found myself crying again. This time, out of frustration, fear, and pain. Was that it for me? They could fix my back, but not my foot, because, even though my foot was hurting, my foot shouldn’t be hurting?
I searched a bit more, and landed on the website for Atlanta Spine Specialists. I found a lot of information about pain symptoms that sounded a lot like what I was going through. It was the first time I read about CRPS, which sounded a lot like what I was feeling. So, I made an appointment.
That day, there were more happy tears. I learned about Chronic Focal Pain Syndrome, which is a specific kind of CRPS, and, more importantly, about Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) Therapy, a cutting-edge treatment designed specifically for people, like me, who have been experiencing chronic lower body pain for at least six months. The doctor said the pain was neuropathic and likely the result of my injury, even though I didn’t really experience any obvious, serious damage to my foot. He answered all my questions, and the prognosis seemed hopeful to me, so I agreed to go ahead with the treatment.
The procedure itself was pretty simple, and I went home the same day. In addition to the DRG implant, my doctor recommended vitamin C and specific therapeutic stretching exercises to improve my strength and range of motion. By my follow up appointment a few weeks later, my pain level was much lower. I’ve been able to start doing some of the things I enjoyed before the injury. Most importantly, I’m able to do those things without chronic pain.
“Sandy’s” story represents a number of people suffering with CRPS and looking for long-term pain relief. If, like “Sandy,” you are experiencing chronic pain, and you want to see if DRG therapy could help, click here to make an appointment for a consultation.