How Art and Apps Helped My CRPS

Published on January 27, 2021 under RSDS General Info

Written by Deanna Hart for the RSDSA blog.

Woman wearing all black holding How and when did you develop CRPS/RSD?

I rolled my ankle while working in a high stress environment in September 2019.

What has daily life been like since your diagnosis?

For the first six months, I did not know if I would get better; it seemed to only get worse. I could hardly walk with my left foot as it felt like the tissues in my ankle and foot were tearing, my foot was rigid, often strangely discolored and had strange temperatures. It felt like I had muscle spasms tearing my ankle and foot apart from the inside, even while at rest. At high stress times, my past injuries and pains in other parts of my body also acted up with a vengeance, including knee problems and carpal tunnel, which was extra disabling to have all those things acting up at once.

What is one thing you wish those without CRPS/RSD could understand?

Those of us with CRPS need to be able to make life changes to bring our stress levels down permanently.

What advice would you give to newly diagnosed Warriors?

Consider all the chronic stressors in your life and have enough compassion for yourself to change your life to be low stress.

What activities or treatments have helped you find temporary or long term relief?

I was directed by William Rubine, MS, PT at OHSU Physical Therapy Services at South Waterfront in Portland, Oregon to use the Recognise Foot app (iOS and Android), which I highly recommend. This app shows you images of feet for you to identify as either left or right (there is a hand version of the app as well called Recognise Hand on iOS and Android). The app gets more advanced when you chose the abstract option, showing you abstracted images of feet. Using the app caused my pain symptoms to act up, but to a lesser and lesser degree as I continued building my tolerance. Within days it did not hurt to look at images of feet anymore and all my symptoms were disappearing. I was blown away!  

I realized I can get these benefits also by drawing my feet. Then I also painted my feet. It was fascinating because one foot I painted looked sickly like my foot did at its worst in real life (swollen, discolored, atrophied – corresponding to my CRPS affected foot) and the other foot looked instantly healthy and fit the first time. I kept painting layers and layers over the sickly foot until both painted feet looked healthy. I have had almost no symptoms of CRPS since. It seemed to clarify the image of my feet in my brain. Now I only have pain in my foot for passing moments when I experience stress. 

Anything else you would like to add?

While massage and physical therapy treatments and such feel good in the short run, try building your brain’s image of your body, no matter how disfigured the images you make are to start. Keep redrawing it. If you cannot draw or paint, or do not want to, use the Recognise apps. 

If you want to connect with me about using art to treat CRPS, you can email me at email@deannabananas.com or connect with me on Instagram!

Click here to view RSDSA’s list of practitioners who utilize graded motor imagery.

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