Disturbance of goal-directed motor control may cause or exacerbate pathological pain in patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). We conducted a single-case study about motor control involved in reaching with a patient with CRPS in an upper limb.
Using a three-dimensional measurement system, we recorded reaching movement trajectories of the intact and affected hand before and after pain alleviation by therapeutic nerve blockade. We assessed degrees of tremor in the acceleration phase (from start until maximum peak velocity) and the deceleration phase (from maximum peak velocity until goal). To quantify the smoothness of reaching movements, we analyzed the curves of the trajectories during the initial movement phase (from start and maximum peak acceleration).
The results showed that the tremor of the affected hand was greater than that of the intact hand during the deceleration phase, both before and after pain alleviation. Reaching trajectories of the intact hand smoothly traced curves convexed toward the intact side, while those of the affected hand represented unnaturally rectilinear functions associated with the loss of smooth movements. Further, these unnatural trajectories partially recovered after pain alleviation.