How is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) diagnosed?

There is no specific diagnostic test for CRPS, but some testing can rule out other conditions. Triple-phase bone scans can be used to identify changes in the bone and in blood circulation. Some health care providers may apply a stimulus (such as heat, touch, cold) to determine whether there is pain in a specific area.

Making a firm diagnosis of CRPS may be difficult early in the course of the disorder when symptoms are few or mild. CRPS is diagnosed primarily through observation of the following symptoms:

  • The presence of an initial injury
  • A higher-than-expected amount of pain from an injury
  • A change in appearance of an affected area
  • The presence of no other cause of pain or altered appearance

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/14/2016.


  • Binder A, Baron R. Complex regional pain syndromes. In: Koltzenburg M, McMahon SB, Tracey I et al. Wall & Melzack's Textbook of Pain. 6th ed. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2013: chap 67.
  • Goebel A. Complex regional pain syndrome in adults. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2011 Oct;50(10):1739-50. Epub 2011 Jun 28.
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Complex regional pain syndrome fact sheet Accessed 3/14/2016.
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Complex regional pain syndrome (reflex sympathetic dystrophy) Accessed 3/14/2016.

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