Do you experience pain from a simple touch? Do you cringe when someone goes to give you a hug? Do these simple gestures result in excruciating pain? Skin pain is another one of those fibromyalgia symptoms that just doesn’t seem to make sense. This type of pain is called Allodynia and is usually felt as a burning sensation.
Allodynia is believed to be a hypersensitivity to stimuli that would normally not cause pain. The pain can be provoked by a light touch to the skin, pressure from clothing, showering, combing or brushing your hair. Even a light breeze blowing across your skin can feel like agony.
What Causes Allodynia?
Allodynia is considered to be the result of a process called central sensitization. The pain comes from a malfunction of specialized nerves, called nociceptors. These nociceptors sense information about things like temperature and painful stimuli right at the skin. For some reason, our nociceptors become chronically activated and send persistent pain signals. Any sensation felt by the skin becomes painful.
Allodynia is a fairly rare type of pain. It is only associated with a handful of conditions. These conditions include fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome, neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia (shingles) and migraine. Allodynia is also linked to the lack of restorative sleep.
There are three sub-types:
- Tactile Allodynia: pain caused from something touching your skin.
- Mechanical Allodynia: pain caused by movement such as your clothing brushing against your skin or the breeze from a fan or the wind blowing across your skin.
- Thermal Allodynia: pain caused from mild heat or cold temperatures.
Allodynia often overlaps with hyperalgesia (abnormally heightened sensitivity to pain), which seems to be the case with fibromyalgia. So not only are we experiencing pain from stimuli that should not cause pain, the pain is amplified.
The skin pain comes from a malfunction of specialized nerves. It is also related to a lack of restorative sleep. Standard treatments for fibromyalgia can also help ease allodynia. This includes eating healthy, exercising, reducing stress and improving your sleep.
Medications that work for some people include:
- Tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline, desipramine, doxepin, imipramine, nortriptyline)
- Lyrica (pregabalin)
- Neurontin (gabapentin)
- Lidocaine patches
Some people also get relief from topical pain creams. You may have to be careful about the way you dress, as well. Loose fitting clothing made from soft natural fibers are recommended.
If your skin itches, burns, tingles or you have numbness, it could be a condition called Paresthesia. It’s also seen in Fibromyalgia and migraine patients. The sensations are usually felt in the hands, arms, legs, or feet, but can also occur in other parts of the body.
Painful skin is a new symptom for me. It seems to be triggered by temperature. It doesn’t even have to be hot. When I feel a little warm, my skin starts stinging and burning, then anything touching or moving across my skin intensifies the pain. Being exposed to the sun makes it worse.
My doctor increased my dosage of amitriptyline and said if that doesn’t help we would try gabapentin. It’s been three weeks since the dosage increase and so far it hasn’t helped. Since summer is almost over, I am wondering if the skin pain will lessen when the weather gets cooler.
Or is that just wishful thinking?