Central Sensitisation and its Role in Chronic Pain

What is Central Sensitisation?

If pain is our bodies natural warning system, then for someone with chronic pain central sensitisation represents a hyperactive warning system.  This is a condition of the central nervous system that is associated with the development and maintenance of chronic pain. It is now widely accepted in medical science. This state of reactivity or hyperactivity lowers a person’s pain threshold and causes pain to persist long after it should have eased and healed completely.

Why someone with an injury or disease develops central sensitisation is unknown but it is almost certainly associated with stress both past and current. This is very difficult for a person to deal with as they know that seemingly harmless things shouldn’t cause such intense pain and other people in their lives perceive them as being a hypochondriac. This only adds to the stress of the situation.

Central sensitisation has the following characteristics:

  • Allodynia – this occurs when a person experiences pain from things that are normally not painful such as a simple touch or light massage.
  • Hyperalgesia – when a stimulus that is normally painful is perceived as more painful than is should be for example a small bump or knock.
  • Heightened sensitivity across other senses like light, sounds and odours.
  • Poor memory, concentration, brain fog, insomnia.
  • Emotional distress such as depression and anxiety.

Causes of Central Sensitisation

It is known that stroke and spinal cord injury can lead to this condition, however it has become increasingly obvious in recent times that central sensitisation is implicated in many pains’ other disorders such as back and neck pain, migraine, arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, motor vehicle accidents, post-surgery, auto-immune conditions etc. These injuries are not directly sustained to the central nervous system but affect the peripheral nervous system.

There are likely multiple factors that lead to the development of central sensitisation. As every person is unique and every person arrives at their injury in a certain state of health and wellbeing the underlying reasons are very individual. These factors are biological, psychological, and environmental.

These include a person’s stress responses, pre-existing anxiety or depression and physical and emotional trauma, all of which are predictive of the onset of chronic pain later in life.  It is therefore suggested that an already dysregulated nervous system may interfere with normal healing of pain and tissue damage.

So how can I help you?

Ever since I became a Physiotherapist I have been interested and intrigued by my patients who just didn’t follow the normal healing path. It struck me early on in my career that physical and emotional traumas endured prior to an injury or disease onset could significantly impact a person’s recovery and contribute to much more pain and suffering.

I wanted to get to the bottom of it and find a way to bring up the root causes. Twenty years of clinical practice and study has led me to develop a unique approach to treatment that incorporates kinesiology, physiotherapy and gut health.

Call me if you’re interested in finding out more because I know I can help you!

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