Allodynia, a word meaning "other
pain,” refers to a frequently misunderstood sensitivity to touch that’s
associated with fibromyalgia, migraine, neuropathy, and chronic fatigue
syndrome. People with allodynia experience even gentle touch as pain. If you have
allodynia, brushing your hair, placing your head on a pillow, or even just
wearing clothing can be agonizing. If you have ever had a severe sunburn, you
will have an idea of what allodynia feels like – every contact of skin with
another surface causes intense discomfort.
There are three basic types of
allodynia. People may experience one, two, or all of the types:
or tactile allodynia. This category can be divided into
two subtypes: static mechanical allodynia, and dynamic mechanical allodynia. The first refers to pain in response
to light touch, the second refers to pain that occurs with gentle movement
across the skin.
allodynia. Patients may experience pain when confronted with mild
temperature changes on the affected areas.
allodynia. This type of allodynia refers to pain triggered by normal body
Symptoms can be transitory or
constant. Many migraine sufferers, for example, experience allodynia as part of
a migraine attack, but it recedes after the headache ends. Fibromyalgia or
neuropathy patients may have a more continuous occurrence of allodynia.
The problem originates in the
central nervous system. Even though the pain seems to come from the skin, it’s
actually a process of sensitization called "central sensitization” that occurs
within the brain and spinal cord. Pain signals from the peripheral nerves
become hyperexcitable and react too strongly to stimuli. They continue to react
even after the stimuli that began the process is gone.
Unfortunately, allodynia is often
resistant to traditional pain medications, and it can be difficult to achieve
the right balance. There are different treatment options based on the type of
allodynia experienced, including sodium blockers, compounds targeting ion
channels, opioids, and some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Once
allodynia has begun, it’s challenging to stop it, so treatment often includes
Many patients find that the side
effects associated with pain medication also make life difficult. It’s
important to find medication that works to control the pain, but that doesn’t
cause other major problems.
Pain Care Clinics
In Ontario, many patients with
allodynia are referred to pain care clinics. These centres specialize in the
treatment of all types of pain and have many advantages. First, doctors at pain
care clinics have devoted their careers to studying pain relief therapies and
to helping patients manage their pain. These knowledgeable professionals keep
abreast of developments in pharmaceutical products designed to alleviate pain
and keep up with research about new therapies for all types of pain. They also
have experience with various procedures that can curtail pain responses, and,
in better clinics, access to state-of-the-art technology.
If you are having difficulty
managing allodynia pain, ask your doctor for a referral to one of Ontario’s
excellent pain care clinics. (Most times treatment at a pain care centre will
be covered by OHIP.)
Live your life to the fullest –
consult a pain care specialist today and break free of the pain of allodynia.