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Clinical Q & A: Does CRPS cause high blood pressure?

The experience of pain is stressful to the body, and one of its effects is to produce an increase in blood pressure. When an injury causes acute pain and increased blood pressure, natural mechanisms are activated that reduce both pain and blood pressure. In fact, these pain-related blood pressure increases may be a trigger for release of pain-relieving compounds produced by the body. In persons with chronic pain, it’s different. There is some evidence that these natural pain and blood pressure dampening systems do not work properly in at least some individuals who experience chronic pain.

While previous studies have not examined hypertension specifically in people with CRPS, it has been shown that those with a variety of chronic pain conditions are more likely than other types of patients to have clinically diagnosed hypertension and to use antihypertensive medications. While it is not known with certainty if chronic pain is the cause of this hypertension, resting blood pressure levels are generally higher in individuals who have more intense chronic pain. For patients with any type of chronic pain condition, including CRPS, it is important to obtain a screening for hypertension. This will ensure that appropriate treatment can be started, if necessary, in order to prevent other health risks.

Stephen Bruehl, PhD, Department of Anesthesiology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee.

RSDSA Review. Winter 2006.

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