OBJECTIVES: Physiotherapy is considered an important treatment option in patients with upper limb complex regional pain syndrome type-1 (CRPS-1). In case of chronic CRPS-1, exercise therapy of the affected limb forms an important part of the physiotherapeutic program. We investigated whether muscle loading in chronic CRPS-1 patients is associated with impairments in muscle circulation of the forearm of the affected limb. METHODS: Thirty patients with chronic CRPS-1 unilaterally affecting their upper limbs, and 30 age-matched and sex-matched control participants were included in this study. Local muscle blood flow and hemoglobin oxygenation were measured by near infrared spectroscopy within the muscles of the forearm at rest, after 1-minute isometric handgrip exercises, and after arterial occlusion. Main outcome parameters were: local muscle blood flow, O2 consumption (mVO2), and postischemic reoxygenation (ReOx). RESULTS: We found no differences in baseline muscle blood flow, mVO2, and ReOx between the affected CRPS-1, unaffected CRPS-1, and control arms. After exercise, mVO2 of the affected CRPS-1 arms was not different from the clinically unaffected CRPS-1 arms. Furthermore, in comparison with the control arms, unaffected CRPS-1 arms showed no difference in mVO2 or ReOx. CONCLUSIONS: Muscle loading does not seems to be related to impairments in muscle oxygen uptake in forearm muscles of upper limbs affected by chronic CRPS-1. Our results suggest that exercise therapy can be safely used in physiotherapeutic training programs for chronic CRPS-1 of the upper limb. © 2009 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.