Teaching the Physician About CRPS

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By Ed Coghlan

Ask a CRPS patient about his or her experience with physicians and you’ll probably hear something like “It took months for me to get a diagnosis.”

It’s true.

In fact, the average CRPS patients sees four doctors before he or she can get a diagnosis.

RSDSA, a national non-profit, has partnered with the American Academy of Pain Management to offer two accredited educational courses on CRPS.

“Our goal is to minimize the time between onset of CRPS symptoms & diagnosis,” said Jim Broatch, RSDSA Executive Vice President. “We firmly believe that an earlier diagnosis will lead to better treatment outcomes.”

Dr. Phillip Getson, a New Jersey physician, will teach the courses. He feels strongly that CRPS is still badly misunderstood.

“There’s a lack of understanding about the disease,” he said. “In fact, there are some who don’t even think it exists.”

CRPS/RSD is a chronic neuro-inflammatory disorder that affects an estimated quarter of a million Americans, although most think the number is higher. CRPS generally follows a musculoskeletal injury, a nerve injury, surgery or immobilization. The persistent pain and disability associated with CRPS/RSD require coordinated, interdisciplinary, patient-centered care to achieve pain reduction/cessation and better function.

But first, it has to be correctly diagnosed.

Dr. Getson and Broatch are hoping the courses will educate physicians, psychologists, and nurses for the next three years about CRPS, and its often comorbid conditions

“Dr. Getson is passionate about treating CRPS and his lectures were jammed packed at the last Academy meeting,” Broatch said.

For Getson, it’s understandable why it is often underdiagnosed.

“Doctor don’t see a lot of it. And the way that medicine is practiced in the 21st century also hurts the effort,” he said. “We just don’t take enough time with the patient. We can do better.”

It’s about education.

Broatch has been pressing the medical community to better under CRPS. He went to the national meeting of emergency room physicians recently to educate them about CRPS. (Here’s the National Pain Report story on it)

Now this opportunity with the AAPM is designed to help others, like orthopedists, podiatrists and family physicians to learn more.

“We are strongly urging members of the CRPS community to share this educational opportunity with their treatment team and especially those health care professionals who are not very familiar with CRPS,” said Broatch.

For advocates like Gracie Gean Bagosy-Young, a patient having to educate a physician is a necessary task that can be frustrating.

“We get tired of going to our appointments loaded down with brochures and documents, prepared to teach each doctor we encounter.”

Dr. Getson’s message to the physicians is to slow down and listen to the patient.

“We’re in rush mode which is not what medicine is supposed to be,” he said. “I’ll remind them what we learned in medical school which is to make someone better of get them to someone what can get them better.”

Sounds like a good plan.

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