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The International Research Consortium (IRC) is a recently formed organization whose goal is to promote research directed at relieving the pain and disability, prevention, and ultimately, the cure of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) – a rare chronic pain condition.

Our members belong to over 50 research laboratories around the world. Here they can collaborate and compare findings to further CRPS research.

Why an International Research Consortium?

Significant strides in CRPS research has occurred during the last two decade. However, solid information and RCTs concerning treatment or definitive information about mechanisms and treatment responsve phenotypes is lacking. There are many explanations and the International Research Consortium for CRPS (IRC) will address this need.

CRPS is a relatively rare condition. Thus, with very few exceptions, trials of treatment for CRPS-I have generally been small N, single-site pilot studies. Federal agencies that approve treatments (e.g. FDA in the US) and insurance payers do not consider preliminary, pilot, or case series type evidence. Definitive trials are an immediate need.

Previous research efforts in CRPS suffer from a lack of funding with one notable exception of TREND. National funding levels for basic and clinical research are at historic lows internationally and may remain so for a long time.

What is needed is large, multi-site studies with appropriate funding levels. The formation of an International Research Consortium for CRPS (IRC) will accomplish this by 'pooling' our resources for rapid and conclusive studies.

Our Mission:

To promote research directed to relieving the pain and disability, prevention, and cure of CRPS patients.

Staff & Board of Directors



Executive Director

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Amy Kirsling is Executive Director of the International Research Consortium for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (IRC), Senior Regulatory Coordinator for the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Northwestern University, a business development consultant, and medical writer. Her purpose and passion are creating, developing, and leading missions that strengthen underserved populations and communities. Amy strongly believes in the importance of dialogue, collaborations between people, and creativity to produce positive social change.

Kirsling began her career as a case manager for homeless individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses. She built collaborations within the community to educate homeless individuals to become independent in society and worked one on one with individual clients. She initially started her career in pursuit of becoming a mental health counselor, but discovered a passion in service to her community by improving programs. She moved to Chicago to pursue her Master’s Degree in Public Administration (MPA) at DePaul University to obtain necessary experience to achieve this goal.

While obtaining her MPA, Kirsling was a program coordinator for a literacy organization, SitStayRead.  As part of her degree program she developed a strategic plan for the Diabetes Scholar Fund, a feasibility scan for bike lanes for the Rogers Park Business Alliance, and a needs assessment for FORWARD, an obesity alliance in Chicago.

Upon graduation, Kirsling started to manage the Center for Pain Studies Lab at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and aided the development of a severity score for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) the CRPS Recovery project, and the development of COMPACT, a core set of outcomes for CRPS research. She has helped develop the IRC in its early stages and continues to build efforts in the hopes of finding causes and cures for CRPS. 



Chairman,Board of Directors

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Dr. R. Norman Harden received his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia in June 1984. He performed an internship and residency in Neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina from 1984-1988.  Subsequent training included a fellowship in pain control at the Pain Control and Rehabilitation Institute of Georgia (Emory University) and an observership in Cancer Pain Control at Memorial Sloan-Kettering (Cornell University) in 1989. He has performed 3 observerships at the NIH/NIDR under Drs Bennett and Gracely; 1990-92. Dr. Harden served as Assistant Professor in Neurology and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Medical Director of the Pain and Rehabilitation Program at the Medical University of South Carolina from 1989-1994, and founded the Headache Program and the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy programs there.


From 1994-2015, Dr. Harden served as the Director of the Center for Pain Studies and founded the Chronic Pain Care Center at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He is now Professor emeritus  in the departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences at Northwestern University. He has been a Falk Scholar and the Rosen Scholar. He is the first holder of the Robert G. Addison, M.D. Chair in Pain Studies. He currently serves as the Chair of the Research Committee of the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Association  and the American Academy of Pain Medicine


Dr. Harden is a past president of the Midwest Pain Society and has twice served as chair of the IASP Research Symposium on Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.  Dr. Harden is a member of numerous medical societies including the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Pain Society, the International Association for the Study of Pain and is an Honorary life member of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.


Dr. Harden is the past Editor in Chief of the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, is the Senior Associate Editor of Pain Medicine and serves on the editorial board of many other journals. He serves as a reviewer for numerous journals, including Pain, The Journal of Pain and the Clinical Journal of Pain. He has edited 4 books, and has published over 80 peer reviewed articles in the pain literature. In addition he has published over two hundred chapters, reviews and abstracts in prominent medical journals and books such as the journals Pain, the Clinical Journal of Pain, Pain Medicine, Neurology, JAMA, Headache, Bonica’s Management of  Pain and Braddom’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.


Clinical expertise: pain management. Populations include Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (also known as RSD), Fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain, pain in older patients, pain in rehabilitation diagnoses, Myofascial Pain Syndrome and headache.


Research: primarily focused on the study of Complex Regional Pain Syndromes, post amputation pain, pain in other rehabilitation diagnoses, musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain, osteoarthritis, the placebo response, Opioid ‘Induced’ Hyperalgesia and headaches. He conducts pharmacological trials, outcomes development /validation, pain physiology and Model validation.



Vice Chairman, Board of Directors

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Stephen Bruehl, Ph.D. is a tenured Professor of Anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee (USA).  He has been a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association since 2003.  Dr. Bruehl is an active chronic pain researcher, and has led six research projects funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.   He has conducted CRPS research and written about the condition since 1992, and has published journal articles and book chapters addressing all aspects of CRPS including its’ assessment and diagnosis, pathophysiology, treatment, and psychological aspects.  He was co-leader of the project that developed the 2012 International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) diagnostic criteria for CRPS (the “Budapest Criteria”). Since 2005, Dr. Bruehl  has been an Associate Editor for Pain, the journal of the IASP, and in 2015 assumed a similar role with Annals of Behavioral Medicine, the journal of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.  He has also served on the editorial board of the Clinical Journal of Pain since 1999, and was Associate Editor for the Journal of Behavioral Medicine from 2004 to 2014.  He has been elected a member of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research and the Association of University Anesthesiologists.  Dr. Bruehl has consulted with several pharmaceutical companies regarding development of new therapies for CRPS.  In addition to ongoing interests in assessment of CRPS outcomes and the role of oxidative stress mechanisms in CRPS, his current research is exploring mechanisms underlying individual differences in responses to analgesic medications, and ways of optimizing the benefits vs. risks of opioid analgesic therapies.



Treasurer, Board of Directors

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Gary J. Bennett, Ph.D. is Professor and Canada Senior Research Chair in the Department of Anesthesia, the Faculty of Dentistry, and the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain at McGill University, in Montreal, Canada and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego.  He has served on the American Pain Society’s Board of Directors and on the Editorial Board for Pain (1986-1999; 2009-present), the journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain, and currently serves on the Editorial Board for Pain Medicine, the journal of the American Academy of Pain Medicine.  He has served on the Board of Directors of the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association of America, where he was Director of Research, and received their Scientific Achievement Award in 2000.  He was awarded the American Pain Society’s Frederick W.L. Kerr Basic Science Research Award in 1996, and the American Academy of Pain Medicine’s Founder’s Award in 2001.  For the past 30 years, his research has focused on the mechanisms underlying neuropathic pain syndromes and on the preclinical development of new analgesics.  He has been a consultant for several pharmaceutical companies for the design of clinical trials for agents to treat neuropathic pain and has also been an investigator in several such trials.  For the past decade his research has focused on the painful peripheral neuropathies caused by chemotherapeutic drugs.



Secretary, Board of Directors

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Roberto Perez was trained as a physical therapist and human movement scientist for which he received his degree in 1995. He received his PhD from the medical faculty of the VU University Amsterdam in 2001, based on investigations into the diagnosis, assessment and treatment of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. He currently works as an associate professor for Pain, Pain Therapy and Palliative Care Research at the Anesthesiology department of the VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, where he leads a group of 12 PhD students. He leads the scientific committee of his department, is a member of the teaching committee of his institute and is a senior researcher at the EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care Research. His research activities mainly focus on diagnosis and prognosis, development of measurement instruments and symptom control of chronic pain and terminally ill patients. His fields of expertise concern chronic pain (in particular CRPS and neuropathic pain) and palliative care, whereby he focuses on clinical trial methodology, epidemiological, diagnostic and clinimetric aspects of pain and palliative care research. He is editor-in-chief of the Dutch Journal of Pain.   He has (co-)chaired to the development of evidence based multidisciplinary treatment guidelines for CRPS and was one of the founding fathers of the knowledge consortium TREND, where he was a led the program committee clinical trials. At present he is a steering committee member of NeuroSIPE and NeuroControl, and a Chair-elect of the special Interest Group “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome” of the IASP. In his spare time Roberto likes to wander through nature, and tries to play double bass, for which his enthusiasm greatly exceed his skills.



Board of Directors

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Candy McCabe is the Florence Nightingale Foundation Chair in Clinical Nursing Practice Research at the University of the West of England, Bristol and the Royal United Hospitals Foundation Trust, Bath UK. She trained as a nurse at St. Thomas’ Hospital, London and after working in a variety of specialties including ward based and research work she moved to the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD), Bath in the mid- 90’s. Since this time her research and clinical interests directly relate to increasing our understanding of the mechanisms and potential therapies for those with chronic unexplained pain, particularly that of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and other neuropathic pain conditions. She leads a multi-disciplinary Clinical Research team that provides national services for those with CRPS and for those suffering with late effects from radiotherapy following treatment for breast cancer.

The central core of her research is focused on the relationship between the sensory and motor systems and pain; what part they may play in the development and perpetuation of pain; and how they can be modified to relieve pain. Candy was awarded an NIHR Career Development Fellowship in 2009 to pursue this research whilst retaining her part-time clinical practice as a Consultant Nurse. She moved to the University of the West of England in April 2010 to take up a Chair in Nursing and Pain Sciences, and in 2010 was made a Florence Nightingale Foundation Chair in January 2015.

Candy is a member of a number of national committees in the specialties of rheumatology and pain, is Chair of the International Association for the Study of Pain Special Interest Group for CRPS, and a member of the British Pain Society Scientific Committee. She is a past president of the British Health Professionals in Rheumatology. She was awarded the Kris Kumar Honoured Lecture Award by the Canadian Neuromodulation Society in 2012.



Board of Directors

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Claudia Sommer, M.D., is a Professor of Neurology at the University of Würzburg, Germany. She is a board certified neurologist and psychiatrist, having received training in psychiatry, neuropathology, experimental anesthesia, and neurology. At the University of Würzburg she serves as a consultant in neurology, she leads the Peripheral Nerve Laboratory, the Pain Research Laboratory, and she organizes outpatient clinics for patients with neuropathies, neuropathic pain or headache. Research interests are the pathophysiology of peripheral neuropathies, of neuropathic pain, and of antibody-mediated diseases. The laboratory has also been dedicated to the improvement and standardization of diagnostic procedures from nerve biopsies, and Prof. Sommer is active in the development of national and international guidelines on peripheral neuropathies, nerve and skin biopsies, complex regional pain syndrome, fibromyalgia syndrome, neuropathic and facial pain. She has made major contributions to the understanding of the pathophysiology of pain, in particular to the role of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. A particular focus has been translational research, where the knowledge from animal models was taken into human pain diseases. Recent work has focused on how to evaluate nociceptor morphology and function in human pain diseases. Dr. Sommer has served on the Board of Directors of the Peripheral Nerve Society, she is a Council Member of the International Association for the Study of Pain and she chairs the scientific committee for the 2016 World Congress on Pain.



Board of Directors

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Board of Directors

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A patient advocate for more than twenty years, Christin has worked for several non-profit patient organizations in fields such as sleep, cancer, and neurology/pain.  She is particularly interested in helping patients be diagnosed and treated properly in accordance with medical evidence and individual needs, in fostering patients’ access to care, and in advancing research into knowledge gaps.

With a personal connection to CRPS/RSD, Christin understands that the severe pain from CRPS/RSD can be debilitating to too many.  She also believes that it is vital to understand all aspects of this complicated neurological disorder including changes in blood flow; swelling; abnormalities in the skin, nails, and hair; localized osteoporosis; parasthesias; and neuromuscular complications.  Despite the extensive and horrible impact CRPS/RSD can have, Christin recognizes that CRPS/RSD can be treated successfully but that unfortunately only relatively few people are prescribed an effective treatment regimen.

With a career that began in political campaigns, Christin has a significant background in government, policy, grassroots organizing, and communications.  Christin has also co-authored several scientific articles and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University.

For more information on CRPS, please visit the following websites.


CRPS UK Clinical Research Network


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Contact Us

Have any questions for us? Interested in joining, enlisting the aid of, or supporting the IRC? Contact Amy Kirsling, with any inquires.

AMY KIRSLING, Director of Operations

(920) 385-3444

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IRC Members: Please enter your sign in details to access the private collaboration site.

Not a Member? To be considered for membership, please contact Amy Kirsling.