In 2002, I was in what was thought to be a minor car accident. After months of getting worse, noticing new symptoms and doctors telling me it was all in my head, I set out to find answers that made sense for what was happening to me.

Many of the medical tests that were performed did not show any problems. Even so, my symptoms were still bad and getting worse. I started physical therapy about a month after the accident, which was excruciating and seemed to make things worse.

Flash forward three years, and I found my way to a pain clinic here in Arizona. My doctor took the time to listen to my history and examine me. The thought of being examined again by a new doctor was frightening. After an hour with me, the doctor said I might have Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), a painful neurological condition. A test later confirmed I had RSD — as all my signs and symptoms had pointed to for all that time.

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After finding so little information out there about RSD and having so many doctors try to treat me who did not know about it, I realized that I was the one who had to teach my caretakers.

Many doctors who are not connected with a research hospital or university do not have the time to stay up-to-date with the latest information on RSD and other chronic illnesses. RSD does not always respond to treatments that relieve other types of chronic pain. Even among RSD patients, there are different responses to treatment.

The condition affects many aspects of the patient’s life in varying degrees. For me, the simple things are the toughest. Activities of daily living, personal grooming, and my social and personal life have all been affected. I was not prepared for a…