Etiopathogenesis of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy: A Review and Biopsychosocial Hypothesis

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Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is an enigmatic condition. Many clinicians, however, believe that psychological factors could contribute to the onset and persistence of the syndrome. In this article we critically review the evidence from psychometric and psychodynamic/biographical studies that suggests a role for such factors. An etiopathogenetic hypothesis based on the authors' clinical experience and the foregoing literature also encompasses elements of stress-coping theory, cognitive-behavioral views on chronic pain, and the psychobiological approach to sympathetic nervous system dysfunction. Implications of this model for future psychological research and the therapeutic treatment of RSD are discussed.

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