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Central Pain Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

  • Published: 2015-07-15 (Revised/Updated 2017-11-14) : Author: Thomas C. Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Information regarding Central pain syndrome, a neurological condition in which the pain may be moderate to severe in intensity.
Central Pain Syndrome

Central pain syndrome is defined as a neurological condition caused by damage or malfunction in the Central Nervous System (CNS) which causes a sensitization of the pain system. The extent of pain and the areas affected are related to the cause of the injury. Damage to the CNS can be caused by accidents, trauma, spinal cord injury, limb amputations, tumors, stroke, immune system disorders or diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, Graves or Addison's disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, and epilepsy. It may develop months or years after injury or damage to the CNS.

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"While it might start with an injury or an illness, pain may develop a psychological dimension after the physical issue itself heals."

Central pain syndrome is a neurological condition caused by damage to, or dysfunction of, the central nervous system, which includes the spinal cord, brainstem and brain. The syndrome may be caused by multiple sclerosis, tumors, stroke, brain or spinal cord trauma, epilepsy, or Parkinson's disease. The character of the pain associated with the syndrome differs greatly among individuals, partly because of the variety of potential causes. Central pain syndrome may affect a large portion of a person's body, or might be more restricted to specific areas such as a person's feet or hands.

The extent of pain someone experiences is often related to the cause of the injury or damage. Pain is usually constant, might be moderate to severe in intensity and is often made worse by movement, touch, temperature changes and emotions. People experience one or more types of pain sensations, most often a burning one.

Mixed in with the sensation of burning may be sensations of pressing, lacerating or aching pain, 'pins and needles,' sensation, as well as short but intolerable bursts of pain similar to the pain caused by a dental probe on an exposed nerve. People might experience numbness in the areas affected by the pain. The burning and loss of touch sensations are commonly most severe on the distant portions of a person's body such as their hands or feet. Central pain syndrome often times starts soon after the cause of the person's injury, yet might be delayed for months or even years - particularly if it is related to post-stroke pain.

Symptoms of Central Pain Syndrome

The pain a person experiences in relation to central pain syndrome may be moderate to severe in intensity. Usually, the pain is described as constant burning pain that increases with a light touch. The pain is burning, steady, pressing, aching, lacerating, tearing and mixed with highly painful bursts. An affected person may experience a loss of sensation in the affected areas, which is more notable in distal areas.

The pain associated with the syndrome is aggravated by changes in temperature, particularly cold weather. Additional factors such as exposure to rain, snow, a breeze, the sun, or a touch by another person might also increase the level of pain an affected person experiences. On occasion, the person may experience sharp bursts of pain that are similar to the pain caused by touching an exposed nerve.

Causes of Central Pain Syndrome

Anything from stomach ulcers to a poor quality mattress may cause chronic pain. While it might start with an injury or an illness, pain may develop a psychological dimension after the physical issue itself heals. More causes of central pain syndrome include the following:

Treating Central Pain Syndrome

Pain medications often provide a person with some reduction of pain, although not complete relief of pain. Tricyclic antidepressants such as nortriptyline, or anticonvulsants such as gabapentin may be useful. Lowering a person's stress levels seems to reduce the level of pain they experience. The main goal of treatment is reduction of the person's pain levels.

Common analgesics are usually of no help. Some anticonvulsant and antidepressant medications are helpful where alleviating pain are concerned. Tricyclic antidepressants such as nortrytiline are among the most commonly prescribed medications. Anticonvulsant medications such as carbamezapine and gabapentin are also useful. Decreasing the person's stress level also assists with decreasing their experience of pain.

Central pain syndrome is not a fatal disorder. The syndrome does; however, cause disabling chronic pain and suffering among most of the people who experience it. Research is seeking new treatments for chronic pain and nervous system damage. The goals of the research are to develop ways to more effectively treat and hopefully reverse debilitating conditions such as central pain syndrome.

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