In the middle of the night, someone took your soft, 400 thread-count cotton sheets & exchanged them for dry, course, 400 grain-count sand paper. Every time you moved or rolled over, the sand paper stripped away another layer of your skin. The next day, simply putting on a shirt or brushing your hand over your arm feels terribly painful, like some of your skin is missing or you have a horrible sun burn you just can’t see.
How can wearing a shirt or touching your own skin, hurt that much?
It’s possible it’s because you have Allodynia.
Allodynia is neuropathic pain that occurs from a stimulus that shouldn’t be painful. When something physically hurts, you want your brain to receive that “pain” signal so you rest, pull away from the hot stove or stop pushing down on the scissors that caught your finger. These painful sensations are usually interpreted by our nocireceptors. For some reasons, these receptors are being triggered incorrectly, over-reacting like a bad actress on a soap opera, telling our brain something injurious is happening. Our brain now believes that action is harmful & we feel pain.
There are 3 types of Allodynia:
- Tactile Allodynia (something touching your skin)
- Mechanical Allodynia (pain caused by movement such as your shirt or sheets brushing against your skin)
- Thermal Allodynia (mild heat or cold temperatures causing pain)
Reports say Allodynia isn’t very common. It’s most often associated with patients battling Fibromyalgia but is also seen in Neuropathy patients, Multiple Sclerosis, migraine sufferers etc. MECFS is not officially listed, yet I have talked to many patients battling MECFS that describe Allodynia symptoms in perfect detail, often making the exact same sheet analogy. I know it’s something I have battled for years.
At it’s core, Allodynia is a hyper sensitive reaction in our brain. It’s not a stretch to think other autoimmune or neuroimmune conditions are triggering this as well. After all, a hyper sensitive over-reaction is the definition for autoimmune.
Different cell types have been linked to Allodynia. For example, there are reports that mircroglia in the thalamus might contribute to Allodynia by changing the properties of the secondary nociceptors. (Microglia are macrophages that take up residence in your brain & spinal cord. They are vital to the regulation of our immune responses & the development of inflammation). This same effect is achieved in the spinal cord by the recruitment of immune system cells such as monocytes/macrophages and T lymphocytes.
I don’t know if I have Allodynia or not but my skin hurts! What can I do?
(As always, don’t do anything until you check with your Dr first)
Make sure you aren’t having an allergic reaction to a product you used. Many products are re-formulated without our knowing it. They add chemicals or essential oils we can react to (often we just start to reacting to something we’ve used forever & we don’t know why). Make sure the cause isn’t your bath soap, laundry soap, body lotion, etc.
Could it be something you ate? This is a common problem for people with chronic illnesses & many patients say it makes their skin hurt, itch or feel like it’s on fire. Try eliminating what you ate before your skin started hurting (it might take a few days for your skin to fully calm down again).
Some people report relief from topical creams such as: Tiger Balm, Capsaicin, Aspercreme, BioFreeze
Dress differently during these spells: wear soft, all cotton clothes that aren’t tight or baggy enough to rub
If you are diagnosed with Allodynia your Dr might consider putting you on: Tramadol, Ketamine, Morphine or Lidocane to help
If your skin itches, burns or tingles, as well as hurts, it could be a condition called Parasthesia. It’s also seen in Fibro, MS & migraine patients. Some people report B12, capsaisin cream, acupuncture, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) or serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI’s) are helpful.
- If your skin hurts to touch, it’s possible you have Allodynia
- Your brain over-reacts (shocking I know) to otherwise painless stimulus, making your skin feel raw, sore or “burned”
- Treatment: Make sure it’s not an allergic reaction to a product, food, or environmental issue. Wear loose comfortable clothes. Mention it to your Dr so they can decide if you should try Capsaicin cream, Tigerbalm, Aspercream or the stronger analgesic meds