New Treatment for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)

    Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is a type of neuropathic pain that manifests itself as a complex regional pain syndrome.  It is a chronic condition, meaning it can last a lifetime. 

    Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is a complicated nervous system disorder characterized by a severe burning pain, usually localized, but may spread, and which is accompanied by abnormal changes in the bone and skin in the area.  Excessive sweating, tissue swelling, and an extreme sensitivity to touch are also common characteristics. RSD  is diagnosed when there is pain, swelling or change in color or increase or decrease of blood flow in the particular affected area. It is three times more likely to occur in women than men


   Symptoms may include constant chronic burning pain (stabbing, sharp accompanied by tingling sensation).  The painful area may be hot or cold and very sensitive to touch.  Often the patient experiences difficulty in sleeping, emotional distress, and fatigue or general weakness.   The patient may experience long term wasting of the muscles in the extremities due to inactivity brought on by pain.

 Traditional Therapy

     Treatment modalities for RSD have included various medications, physical therapy, sympathetic nerve blocks, placement of spinal cord stimulators, as well as the use of a morphine pump.  The preferred method to treat RSD includes sympathetic block and physical therapy incorporating the use of electrotherapy which historically has been through use of a TENS unit.  Tens units have not helped significantly with RSD because the electrode placement is difficult and there is no carryover relief from Tens.   Treatment is directed at the relief of pain so the patient can begin more progressive rehabilitation caused by the disease itself.  Stimulation of the spinal cord and nerve endings by electrical current is done to relieve pain. 

 New Therapy Treatment

     Others who have used TENS have found that although there is significant pain relief during the initial phase, there is a drop off after several weeks of therapy.   One of the problems with TENS is the modality itself does not have what is called “carryover” relief, i.e. when the unit is turned off, the pain comes back.  Interferential has been used for relief and has the benefit of extending relief post-treatment.   Because the units are large, expensive, and require greater amounts of electrical energy, the patient would have to go to a facility for treatments.  

     Today that is no longer the case. The interferential unit is portable, powered by AC adapter or batteries for home use.   The patient can self treat as needed. The carryover relief period seems to extend for longer periods of time as more treatments are done.  Some patients may have pain relief for only a few hours or days after treatment. From limited observations with the new interferential units, it appears that the carryover pain relief is extending.

      Interferential is the most used form of clinical electrotherapy for chronic pain in the world.   And now, the Infrex Plus is available for home use.