Many people who suffer from a serious work injury can later develop Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or RSD.  RSD is defined as “a malfunction of the central nervous systems, which causes pain and additional symptoms,” (taken from  RSD is a condition that is recognized by Virginia Workers’ Compensation when it is caused as the result of a workplace injury.

“Complex regional pain syndrome occurs in two types, with similar signs and symptoms, but different causes,” (  While there are two separately recognized types of RSD; the information provided in this post is meant to be centered on Type 1 RSD (onset after injury or illness).

I have compiled a host of information here on RSD from several different resources.  If you are experiencing these symptoms or believe you might be suffering from RSD, you need to discuss this information with your doctor.

The 4 main symptoms of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy are:

Information source –

1. Pain.

This is the major symptom of RSD, which is extremely intense, often leading to a lack of sleep.

Described usually as severe, constant and burning in nature; like the affected area was on fire or in a pot of boiling water. You can also suffer from throbbing, aching, stabbing, crushing, sharp or tingling pain in the affected areas. The painful areas are not limited to the original accident or trauma site. The pain is more severe than what is expected for the type of injury sustained.

Allodynia usually accompanies this pain. This is an extreme sensitivity to a stimulus that would not normally cause pain. A slight touch, clothing, even a breeze can cause extreme pain. Hyperpathia and Hyperesthesia can also be present (Increased sensitivity to painful stimulus including pressure and touch which can continue after the stimulus is removed). Pain can be caused by vibrations and even loud noises and sound.

2. Inflammation.

Inflammation is present in MOST cases of RSD and can be present in many forms. These include swelling (edema), color changes (mottled skin, purple, blue, red or pale discolorations), skin rashes, bleeding in the skin, bruising easily, patches of dark and/or dry skin, swelling in and around the joints and freezing of the joints.

Inflammation is not always present.

3. Spasms.

The blood vessels of the skin and muscles spasm causing a feeling of coldness. This can also result in tremors, muscle weakness or fatigue, movement disorders, weakness and clumsiness of the extremities and the tendency to fall.

4. Insomnia and Emotional Disturbances

RSD affects the limbic system, the part of the brain in which the sympathetic nerve fibers carrying the pain and other impulses terminates. This is positioned between the brain stem (at the base of the neck) and the brain’s cerebral hemispheres.

Disturbance of the limbic system can causes depression, agitation, irritability, insomnia, short term memory loss and lack of judgment or concentration.

SOME Other Symptoms of RSD:


Movement Disorders – Difficulty in beginning movement of the affected area or the inability to move the area. Development of dystrophy and/or atrophy may sometimes occur.

Skin Changes – Skin may change color. May be mottled. Can become shiny, dry and tight. Rashes and sores can occur (neurodermatitis). The skin can become thin and fragile or may become quite thick, developing elephantiasis.

Sweating – Increased sweating in affected areas or lack of sweat.

General Weakness – Body Fatigue.

Increased Tone – Muscle and skin tightening.

Increased Reflexes – Tremors of affected extremities and muscle spasms.

Hair/Nails – These may sometimes start grow at an increased rate with the onset of RSD/CRPS and/or then slow or stop growing in affected areas. The hair can also change in color and thickness. Nails can become grooved, cracked, discolored and brittle.

Eye Sight – Visual disturbances can occur including blurring, difficulty focusing and dizziness in the form of vertigo (either the body or objects moving around).

Hearing – Tinnitus (buzzing or ringing in the ears).

Joints – Decreased ROM (range of movement), Tenderness and swelling.

Miscellaneous – loss of libido, relationship problems, anxiety and panic disorders. Immune system disturbances. Inability to control body temperature may also occur with RSD/CRPS

Would you like to read more information about workers compensation claims and benefits in Virginia?

If you are suffering from RSD as the result of a workplace injury, order my book, The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” by clicking this link, or call our office today (804) 755-7755.

The Injured Workers Law Firm helps clients all over Virginia; if you have experience a work injury in Goochland, Louisa, Hampton, Alexandria, Deltaville, Lexington, or anywhere in between. You can contact us by email or phone (804) 755-7755


Michele Lewane, Esq.