Reflex Sympathy Dystrophy



Sometimes, it is easy to confuse medical terms like

Reflex Sympathy Dystrophy

with

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

. Whether you call it,

Reflex Sympathy Dystrophy

or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, it is the same disease and has the same impact on individuals who suffer from it. It is very common to hurt a part of the body – we can, by accident, stub a toe on our foot, bang a knee against something, or sprain and ankle – but we usually get up to keep going, not really taking the time to consider the extent of injury. Although the first sensation of pain will likely be absolutely excruciating, it will usually tend to subside after waiting for a moment, or “walking it off”. While this may sometimes work to reduce and ultimately relieve pain, in the case of some, this may not always be the final outcome. The pain sensation doesn’t go away, it worsens over time, often to the point that it can become impossible to deal with. This can truly, severely affect the overall quality of the life of the injured individual because it is hard to manage. These abnormal pain responses from common injuries characterized by chronic pain are a direct result of a pain syndrome called reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or RSD.

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, often called RSD for short, was initially identified by a Philadelphia based physician, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell. He outlined his description of the pain syndrome in “Injuries of Nerves and Their Consequences,” a research paper that he published for the medical community in 1872. Dr. Mitchell, a well-regarded doctor of the time, was most well-known for the research he produced in his lifetime of studying the human nervous system. He was employed as a surgeon and treated many wounded Civil War soldiers that fought for the Union Army. In treating the troops, he would often come across a recurring medical condition amongst the soldiers who had experienced some trauma but whose war wounds had essentially healed. These soldiers reported to Dr. Mitchell that they continued to experience ongoing pain from their injuries that seemed to make its way from the injured areas to other parts of the body. The most commonly reported symptoms included a dull, burning pain; extreme sensitivity to light touch at the site of the injury; and noticeable surface temperature fluctuations in the parts of the body that were affected by the pain.