Complex Regional Pain Syndrome


Miraculous Recovery from CRPS: Eileen’s Story (A Guest Post by

On Autumn Equinox, 2013, I fractured and dislocated a finger while repairing my bike.
Within the next 10 days, I visited the ER 5 times, each time being attended by yet a different medical resident who either re-set the fracture or re-did the cast. Though I formerly boasted as having a high pain tolerance, the levels of pain I had were nothing like I had ever experienced! (I might mention that, from the first visit, despite receiving MANY injections into my hand and wrist, I was not anesthetized properly and endured extremely high levels of pain while my finger was being manipulated. The sensation was “over the top”; so much so that I was rendered incapable of crying.
I laughed hysterically, instead!!! I felt VERY traumatized).

With a history of various physical and emotional traumas laying the background for my nervous system to freakout, the “perfect storm” was in place for development of CRPS. High doses of narcotics and allopathic anti-inflammatories simply dulled my senses and made me feel rotten, yet were ineffective at reducing the 10++ pain levels. The freak-show like colour, temperature and size changes in my entire hand and arm, coupled with the very high pain levels and inability to sleep, were cause for great concern.

In mid-October, I was given the diagnosis of CRPS and told that “due to this condition, it would most likely be 4-6 months before function was regained IF I were to regain function”. I was horrified, and began to do extensive research on CRPS. Pictures of despondent-looking, often suicidal folks on permanent disability with deformed and unuseable limbs scared the beJesus out of me! I was told by 2 different doctors in the same week, that I “should begin to consider another type of work, as I would likely NOT regain function of my left hand”. Being a long-time yoga practitioner and teacher, thai massage practitioner and nordic pole walking instructor (and an extremely active being), I became highly unsettled about this prognosis.

This became an impetus for me to re-direct my focus of research only to “those who healed from CRPS” rather than repeatedly subject myself to, and reinforce, the horror movie narrative of how my life would be. Possessing a high degree of both stubbornness AND strong resolve, I found 2 people on the internet who had totally healed from CRPS. I then became determined to “not let one stone be unturned” in my quest to be yet another who would overcome this syndrome.

The most vital aspect of healing, in my opinion, needs to be focused on one’s ENTIRE BEING. I knew I had to address all aspects of myself in order to heal. Starting from the ground up, here is what helped me to overcome CRPS:

DIET I already had a clean diet; though discovered one day that, after eating potatoes, my hand had doubled in size, became purple, cold and markedly stiff and painful. I then cut out all nightshades, in addition to my usual vegan, sweetener AND gluten-free way of eating. (Eventually, eating nightshades was no longer a trigger and I once again enjoy them in moderation). Months later, I had food sensitivity testing done, and eliminated other possible triggers for inflammation in my body.

MOVEMENT I continued to exercise on a daily basis. It was important to raise my levels of feel-good endorphins, as well as increase general circulation. I still taught pole-walking classes (without poles and left hand raised in the air for many months) and walked on a daily basis.

I diligently went to hand physio twice weekly, for several months. Thankfully, I had an amazing hand physio who was compassionate yet did not coddle me. Our dining room table transformed into a “clinic” of sorts. I diligently carried out prescribed hand exercises, mirror-therapy practice, self-massage and visualizations. My partner, Ed, relentlessly “therapized” me with applications of various linaments, guasha, ultrasound, use of a TENS machine, acupuncture, helped with paraffin immersion baths and gave me lots of TLC. I learned that it was important for me to move my hand and arm regularly, despite the high pain, as they had become “disconnected”, proprioceptively, from the rest of my body.

SLEEP was a challenge for me in the first months, due to the persistently high pain levels. (I also experienced “trauma-induced menopause” as a result of the trauma). I used various supplements, relaxation techniques and calming essential oils, as well as the practice of Yoga Nidra, on a regular basis. I did neurofeedback with a practitioner, and practiced EFT to help regulate my dysregulated nervous system.

SUPPLEMENTS I became a full-time researcher and added magnesium, MSM and other natural anti-inflammatories like turmeric and vitamin C to my regime.

EMOTIONAL LIFE Late in the autumn of 2013, I began seeing a psychotherapist for support. This was extremely beneficial in helping me cope with the many “new normals” I was living with. In early January, I had a particularly upsetting phone conversation with my mother (with whom I have had a “complex” relationship for longer than I can remember). After an hour or so of me “speaking my truth” in a less-than-compassionate way with her, both Ed and I noticed that the swelling, purple hue and icecold temperature of my hand faded. The level of pain diminished dramatically. It looked almost “normal”.

(It was interesting to note that previously, when I was stressed, symptoms became exacerbated). I thus became highly curious about the emotional-physical pain connection. I had already felt so inspired about neuroplasticity after having read Norman Doidge’s books. The very next day, a book I had put on hold at the library came in: The Mind Body Prescription by John Sarno, MD. One of the people who I read about had used John’s methods in completely overcoming CRPS, so I was eager to read his book. It was time for me to look more deeply into the body-mind interplay. I met with a friend, who was also living with chronic pain, and we each wrote and shared about various traumatic incidents in our lives, as part of what Dr. Sarno recommended in his book.

I made a commitment to myself to be more diligent in expressing “less agreeable” feelings, lest I store them and make myself sicker. (P.S. I later apologized to my mother… not for the sentiments I expressed but for the way I spoke to her that day).

PSYCHOLOGICAL / SPIRITUAL LIFE My life became an ongoing mindfulness practice, whereby I delved into the “sensations” (I replaced the word pain with sensation) and used them as a meditative focus, rather than ongoingly trying to run away from them. It became equally vital to practice “diversionary activities” like reading novels, watching comical & inspiring films, reaching out to my dear friends, crying, having CRPS-free time/conversations with Ed, being in Nature, using essential oils, etc. I had no other choice but to live in the moment (or at least aspire to) and celebrate even the smallest signs of progress! My focus shifted to what I COULD do rather than dwell on what I COULD NOT do. Gratitude became more of an ingrained lifestyle than a separate practice. I continued practicing yoga, though the physical aspect differed dramatically from pre-CRPS times. My connection to spirit was certainly amplified. My prayer life seemed to seep into every aspect of my day. Thankfully, I continued to have an unabiding faith that I would BE ALL RIGHT— even in the darkest of moments— if I stayed committed to my wellness and to learning the lessons this experience was here to teach me.

I learned about how the nervous system of someone with CRPS is malfunctioning… that “lights in the brain turn on, sending pain signals to injured parts, even after they have physically healed” and that it was important to put these lights out to calm my nervous system. When symptoms arose, I practiced mindfulness/relaxation techniques, showered myself with compassion, brought in breath/awareness/visualization as ways to “put out the fires” in my brain. Also sniffing peppermint oil helped, as I learned it turns off certain pain receptors in the brain.

LOVE & CONNECTION is perhaps the most important healing modality of all. I ongoingly had the support of my beloved partner, Ed, as well as my dear friends, students, clients and Helen at I wrote regular emails to my community to give updates; ask for prayers and healing energy, rides to physio and yoga class or sometimes simply for a listening ear. I learned the power of receiving. It had always been easy for me to GIVE to others, yet the Universe was now giving me numerous opportunities to practice RECEIVING.

My life returned to “normal” by late February of 2014. I was able to ride my bike again, give massage, teach yoga and nordic pole walking, garden and drive. My hand was fully functional, although it still appears “different” from the right hand and is an ongoing reminder for me of how things once were. In late April, I was involved in a hit-and-run by a car while biking, and sustained a brain injury, whiplash, bumps and bruises. That summer, I had a recurrence of CRPS in my other hand, as a result of a botched medical treatment for whiplash. My now more vulnerable brain went back into CRPS mode. Deja vu. For the next many months, I put on my toolbelt once again and had another opportunity to put into practice all that I learned in the preceding 7 months.

Then, last year, while boogey-boarding in Mexico, I was spit out onto the beach after being tumbled numerous times in a massive wave. It felt as though I nearly drowned that day. I felt traumatized to say the least, and that evening, I experienced a 30-minute episode of intense stabbing sensations in my hand and arm… something which I instantly recognized and I was once again reminded of the body-mind connection. A shift was needed in my nervous system, so immediately I began breathing deeply, reassuring myself and visualizing the flames in my brain subsiding. The sensations went away. Completely. Never to return to this day.

I no longer refer to myself as “having” CRPS. I refer to that challenging time of “having had the diagnosis of CRPS”, so as not to attach to a label. I consider it a miracle to have lived thru such times and to come out the other end having received so many gifts and to be fully functional.

HEALING CAN HAPPEN: It is time for me to give back… to have the honour of sharing my journey with others who have received the same diagnosis. My vision is that this story can bring HOPE to those who read it and empower them to look beyond “having CRPS” and be proactive in their own healing…  I feel grateful to have never simply settled for the status quo of a diagnosis and, instead, to have made the decision not to give up on myself.
Thank you for reading me. (author Eileen)