In January 2014 Helena Stone was referred to the ISEH's Dr Courtney Kipps after a knee injury would not settle with physiotherapy.

At the time she was a keen kayaker and had been inspired to start a new discipline of canoe slalom, following the double medal success in the canoe slalom at the 2012 Olympic games. She had also just been asked to trial at the phase 1 of Girls4Gold, a canoe sprint talent search.

Helena said: “In the 11 months that followed it would not settle and there was no clear answer as to why. However, Dr Kipps was determined to get me back to full fitness. He brought in the help of his colleagues, whether that be in a MDT meeting or Dr Kal Parmar who would see me at short notice when Dr Kipps was unavailable. 

It was only in December of 2014 after my knee kept swelling up, becoming red/purple in colour and sensitive to light touch following a steroid injection, that a clear diagnosis could be made, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Dr Kipps’s determination and awareness of conditions beyond his speciality gave me the best chance of recovery.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a rare neurological condition that causes chronic pain, which is greater and lasts longer than the original injury would suggest. It can be caused by a minor injury, surgery or in some cases appear spontaneously with no known cause. This then leads to damage to, or malfunction of, the peripheral and central nervous systems.  Some of the key symptoms I have already highlighted above, but other include stiffness, dystonia, decreased mobility and changes in temperature and texture of the surrounding skin. CRPS in my case is treated using a multidisciplinary approach making use of physiotherapy techniques such as mirror box therapy, psychology such as CBT, medications such as Pregabalin and interventions such as ketamine infusions.

Having been on this journey for over two years, there are four key things that I have learnt:

  1. Early diagnosis equals best chance of recovery
  2. Pacing is key
  3. No pain no gain is not a strategy with CRPS
  4. Living with an invisible illness is tougher than it may appear

Which is why I wanted to write this, so that more people especially those involved in medicine were informed about CRPS.  If there are just three things you take away from this, let it be, ISEH provide excellent care, the initials CRPS and early diagnosis equals the best chance of recovery."