Many of our female clients suffering Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) report changes in their symptoms during menstruation. Broadly, it affects them in two ways.
First, they report changes in the symptoms of menstruation itself, including changes in the frequency and duration of their periods and a dramatic increase in the intensity of abdominal cramping and pain than before they developed CRPS.
Second, the CRPS symptoms themselves change noticeably. A variety of changes are reported, but the most common are a significant increase in the levels of pain in the affected limb or limbs and the affected limbs becoming freezing cold for the duration of their period.
A number of our clients have reported that the onset of CRPS resulted in the complete cessation of their periods. In cases where the pill has then been prescribed to regularise their menstrual cycle, their periods have returned but this has been associated with some or all of the symptoms mentioned above.
There has been surprisingly little research on the correlation between CRPS and menstruation. However, it is thought that estrogen may be one of the substances in the body that helps to regulate the immune system. This may explain why there is a higher incidence of autoimmune disease (including CRPS) among women than men.
A Dutch study published in 2009 approaches the issue from the opposite perspective, ie “whether a specified menstrual condition is associated with the risk of developing CRPS 1.” This was a small scale study, but the results suggested that “women with CRPS 1 were 5.3 times more likely to have menstrual disorders” than the associated control group. This in itself is interesting in terms of people who are possibly in a higher risk category for developing CRPS, such as those who suffer migraines and CDH that we discussed in a recent article.
In conclusion, despite the lack of formal research, the overwhelming anecdotal evidence suggests that menstruation and CRPS have a mutual effect on each other.