Complex Regional Pain Disorder


This week, a 43-year-old white male presents at the office with a chief complaint of pain. He is assisted in his ambulation with a set of crutches. At the beginning of the clinical interview, the client reports that his family doctor sent him for psychiatric assessment because the doctor felt that the pain was “all in his head.” He further reports that his physician believes he is just making stuff up to get “narcotics to get high.”


The client reports that his pain began about 7 years ago when he sustained a fall at work. He states that he landed on his right hip. Over the years, he has had numerous diagnostic tests done (x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs). He reports that about 4 years ago, it was discovered that the cartilage surrounding his right hip joint was 75% torn (from the 3 o’clock to 12 o’clock position). He reports that none of the surgeons he saw would operate because they felt him too young for a total hip replacement and believed that the tissue would repair with the passage of time. Since then, he reported the development of a strange constellation of symptoms including cooling of the extremity (measured by electromyogram). He also reports that he experiences severe cramping of the extremity. He reports that one of the neurologists diagnosed him with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). However, the neurologist referred him back to his family doctor for treatment of this condition. He reports that his family doctor said “there is no such thing as RSD, it comes from depression” and this was what prompted the referral to psychiatry. He reports that one specialist he saw a few years ago suggested that he use a wheelchair, to which the client states “I said ‘no,’ there is no need for a wheelchair, I can beat this!”

The client reports that he used to be a machinist where he made “pretty good money.” He was engaged to be married, but his fiancé got “sick and tired of putting up with me and my pain, she thought I was just turning into a junkie.”

He reports that he does get “down in the dumps” from time to time when he sees how his life has turned out, but emphatically denies depression. He states “you can’t let yourself get depressed… you can drive yourself crazy if you do. I’m not really sure what’s wrong with me, but I know I can beat it.”

During the client interview, the client states “oh! It’s happening, let me show you!” this prompts him to stand with the assistance of the corner of your desk, he pulls off his shoe and shows you his right leg. His leg is turning purple from the knee down, and his foot is clearly in a visible cramp as the toes are curled inward and his foot looks like it is folding in on itself. “It will last about a minute or two, then it will let up” he reports. Sure enough, after about two minutes, the color begins to return and the cramping in the foot/toes appears to be releasing. The client states “if there is anything you can do to help me with this pain, I would really appreciate it.” He does report that his family doctor has been giving him hydrocodone, but he states that he uses is “sparingly” because he does not like the side effects of feeling “sleepy” and constipation. He also reports that the medication makes him “loopy” and doesn’t really do anything for the pain.


The client is alert, oriented to person, place, time, and event. He has dressed appropriately for the weather and time of year. He makes good eye contact. Speech is clear, coherent, goal-directed, and spontaneous. His self-reported mood is euthymic. Affect consistent to self-reported mood and content of the conversation. He denies visual/auditory hallucinations. No overt delusional or paranoid thought processes are appreciated. Judgment, insight, and reality contact are all intact. He denies suicidal/homicidal ideation and is future-oriented.

Diagnosis: Complex regional pain disorder (reflex sympathetic dystrophy)
Decision Point One: Neurontin (gabapentin) 300 mg orally at BEDTIME with weekly increases of 300 mg per day to a max of 2,400 mg if needed


The client returns to the clinic in four weeks Client returns to the office today and seems to be in agony. He states that the Neurontin did not help him at all. He also states that he is foggy in the morning. His current pain level is a 9 out of 10. You question the client on what would be an acceptable pain level. He states, “I would rather have no pain but don’t think that is possible. I could live with a pain level of 3.” The client is also asked what would need to happen to get his pain from a current level of 9 to an acceptable level of 3. He states, “I guess I would like this achiness and throbbing in my right leg to not happen every day or at least not several times a day. I also could do without my toes curling in like they do. That really hurts.”
The client denies suicidal/homicidal ideation and is still future-oriented. He does seem to be discouraged throughout the interview about his current pain
Decision Point Two: Continue with Neurontin but double the current dose (600 mg PO orally 4 times a day)


The client returns to the clinic in four weeks
The client returns to the clinic with complaints of significant daytime drowsiness. He can barely keep his eyes open in the clinic today
The client’s current pain level is a 4 out of 10. He says, between nods, that his pain has been significantly more manageable over the past month but he cannot seem to stay awake so his function has decreased overall. The appointment is a wash due to his current condition

Decision Point Three: Reduce the Neurontin dose by 300 mg weekly until discontinued. Begin Celexa 20 mg orally in the MORNING and titrate up to a max of 40 mg daily after 1 week

Guidance to Student:

Neurontin can have significant drowsiness and somnolence at higher doses. He was experiencing daytime drowsiness when his dose was 300 mg at bedtime. An increase in dose will only intensify this effect. The best way discontinues most medications with effects on the CNS is through dose de-escalation strategies. This helps avoid “withdrawal” symptoms. Both options that offer dose reductions and discontinuation/starting a new therapy or add-on therapy are great strategies to help reduce adverse side effects and further reduce pain. The addition of a stimulant is never a good practice. Adderall is a schedule II and has significant addictive (both physical and psychological dependence) properties. This is one of those cases where the addition of a medication to control side effects is not in the best interest of the client.

Briefly summarize the patient case study you were assigned, including each of the three decisions you took for the patient presented.
Based on the decisions you recommended for the patient case study, explain whether you believe the decisions provided were supported by the evidence-based literature. Be specific and provide examples. Be sure to support your response with evidence and references from outside resources.
What were you hoping to achieve with the decisions you recommended for the patient case study you were assigned? Support your response with evidence and references from outside resources.
Explain any difference between what you expected to achieve with each of the decisions and the results of the decision in the exercise. Describe whether they were different. Be specific and provide examples.

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This week a 43-year-old white male presents at the office with a chief complaint of pain.


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