Chapel Hill: Opinion

Josh Lawrence: Help us end chronic pain

Imagine someone you know and care for feeling as if she is being burned alive for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. No water will put out the fire and no medication will soothe the pain.

For some, like my friend Tessa Frank, this is a reality.

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), is a neurological disorder in which the sympathetic nervous system never turns off following a minor injury (and sometimes no injury at all), causing severe chronic burning pain.

The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is the body’s way of telling the brain that there is an injury. For most, the SNS turns off once the injury has healed. However, for those with RSD/CRPS, the system never turns off and the pain persists long after the injury has healed.

For many, the RSD/CRPS spreads beyond the initial injury site and in severe cases, can affect the entire body, including organs.

As the RSD/CRPS continues to worsen, it begins to affect hair and nail growth, bone density, skin temperature and color, and motor skills, among many other symptoms. The pain and symptoms are crippling; according the McGill Pain Scale, RSD/CRPS is the most painful disorder known to man. Researchers do not know what causes the body to react this way.

Soccer injury

In 2010 at the age of 15, my friend Tessa strained her calf muscle while playing soccer. Little did she know that this seemingly minor injury would change her life forever.

Though Tessa’s injury healed, her pain never went away. Six weeks after her initial injury, Tessa was diagnosed with RSD/CRPS.

After failed attempts to control the severe pain and symptoms, her pain began to spread. Within a year and a half of her soccer mishap, Tessa experienced debilitating pain and symptoms throughout her entire body.

Though treatments are being developed to combat RSD/CRPS pain, there is no cure. This is why my friend Gabe Smiley and I will be cycling through the Rocky Mountains across the Great Divide this summer to help raise money for much needed RSD/CRPS research.

The route is 2,500 miles long, and stretches from Antelope Wells. N.M., to Rooseville, Mont. By the end of the journey Gabe and I will have climbed over 200,000 feet in elevation, encountered bears and wolves, eaten an obscene amount of calories, but most importantly spread RSD awareness throughout the many towns we pass through.

Our goal is to raise $10,000 for the RSDSA which will go towards RSD/CRPS research, but we need the help of our local communities if we are going to achieve this goal. To support us, we are asking for monetary and bicycle gear donations as well as for our community to like our Facebook page to help get the word out about our cause.

To donate or learn more about RSD/CRPS, please visit our website at and like us on Facebook at

Josh Lawrence, a junior at East Carolina University, is from Chapel Hill.