Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Denying the truth does not change the Facts: A systematic analysis of pseudoscientific denial of complex regional pain syndrome

Bharwani, K.D., Kersten, A.B., Stone, A., Birklein, F., Bruehl, S., Dirckx, M., Drummond, P.D.ORCID: 0000-0002-3711-8737, Gierthmühlen, J., Goebel, A., Knudsen, L. and Huygen, F.J.P.M. (2021) Denying the truth does not change the Facts: A systematic analysis of pseudoscientific denial of complex regional pain syndrome. Journal of Pain Research, 14 . pp. 3359-3376.

PDF - Published Version
Download (528kB) | Preview
Free to read:
*No subscription required


Purpose: Several articles have claimed that complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) does not exist. Although a minority view, it is important to understand the arguments presented in these articles. We conducted a systematic literature search to evaluate the methodological quality of articles that claim CRPS does not exist. We then examined and refuted the arguments supporting this claim using up-to-date scientific literature on CRPS.

Methods: A systematic search was conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane CENTRAL databases. Inclusion criteria for articles were (a) a claim made that CRPS does not exist or that CRPS is not a distinct diagnostic entity and (b) support of these claims with subsequent argument(s). The methodological quality of articles was assessed if possible.

Results: Nine articles were included for analysis: 4 narrative reviews, 2 personal views, 1 letter, 1 editorial and 1 case report. Seven points of controversy were used in these articles to argue that CRPS does not exist: 1) disagreement with the label “CRPS”; 2) the “unclear” pathophysiology; 3) the validity of the diagnostic criteria; 4) CRPS as a normal consequence of immobilization; 5) the role of psychological factors; 6) other identifiable causes for CRPS symptoms; and 7) the methodological quality of CRPS research.

Conclusion: The level of evidence for the claim that CRPS does not exist is very weak. Published accounts concluding that CRPS does not exist, in the absence of primary evidence to underpin them, can harm patients by encouraging dismissal of patients’ signs and symptoms.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Psychology, Counselling, Exercise Science and Chiropractic
Publisher: Dove Press
Copyright: © 2021 Bharwani et al.
United Nations SDGs: Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year