Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), also known as complex regional pain syndrome type I (CRPS I), is a disabling neuropathic pain syndrome. Controversy exists about the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions for the management of RSD/CRPS I. In order to ascertain appropriate therapies we conducted a review of existing randomized controlled trials of therapies for this disabling disease. Eligible trials were identified from the Cochrane, Pubmed, Embase and MEDLINE databases from 1966 through June 2000, from references in retrieved reports and from references in review articles. Twenty-six studies concerning treatment modalities were identified. Eighteen studies were randomized placebo-controlled trials and eight studies were randomized active-controlled trials. Three independent investigators reviewed articles for inclusion criteria using a 15-item checklist. Seventeen of the trials were of high quality according to the 15-item criteria. There was limited evidence for the effectiveness of these interventions because of the heterogeneity of treatment modalities. The search for trials concerning prevention of RSD/CRPS I resulted in two eligible studies. Both were of high quality and dealt with different interventions. There is limited evidence for their preventive effect.