Allodynia is the experience of pain from a non-painful stimulation e.g. light touch, pressure from clothing, showering or brushing your hair. This hypersensitivity to non-painful stimuli results in a painful burning sensation across the skin. The severity of allodynia varies between patients; commonly 80% of people who experience migraines also experience at least one symptom of allodynia during this time.
Allodynia is caused by a dysfunction in the bodies process called central sensitisation. The pain comes from a malfunction of specific nerves, called nociceptors. Nociceptors usually work by sensing information regarding temperature and painful stimuli on the skin. This creates a protective mechanism for the body as the production of pain signals warn us to stop dangerous or painful actions, avoiding injury. However, when these nerves malfunction, the nociceptors can become chronically activated, sending unremitting pain signals. This means that any sensation felt by the skin becomes painful.
Allodynia requires holistic management including general health management such as addressing:
- Weight abnormalities
- Sleep disturbance
- Heart issues
- Smoking, alcohol and drug use
Physiotherapy management usually focusses on reducing pain through:
- Increasing activity levels
- Reconditioning muscles and joints e.g. walking and swimming
- Stretching exercises
- Pain reducing treatments e.g. heat, ice, desensitisation and joint mobilisations
Ultimately, improving the function of muscles can result in elated mood and better sleep. In many cases it is not possible to totally eliminate pain; however, treatment can help to reduce the frequency, severity and duration of painful flare ups.