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Can a Stroke Cause Pain?

  • Mar 22, 2016
  • by Atlanta Pain Management Center
  • Conditions
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While ‘mind over matter’ can help in some situations, central and post-stroke pain is an important exception. With a better understanding of the pain signaling process, it becomes clear why many stroke victims require pain management.

Inside the pain signaling process

Most painful experiences are what is known as local pain. This involves a system of connections from the site of bodily injury through the spinal cord to the region of the brain ‘mapped’ to that body site. When chronic or abnormal, local pain may involve neuropathy, abnormal sensations in nerves, as well as spasticity, abnormally stiff or rigid muscles.

Damage that occurs within the brain or spinal cord can reverse the direction and nature of pain perception. It can cause a body site to spontaneously feel pain because the area of the brain mapped to that location has been injured and misfires. Also, damage to the thalamus or parietal lobes, the areas where sensations of heat, cold and touch are processed; can cause all stimuli to become painful. This can be an important component of what is referred to as central post-stroke pain (CPSP) syndrome.

Characteristics of post-stroke pain

Up to one-half of people who suffer strokes will experience post-stroke pain. Of these, about one in ten people will have features of CPSP syndrome. Patients who have hemorrhagic strokes are at greatest risk of central pain symptoms.

The frequency and intensity of post-stroke pain can vary from intermittent abnormal sensations to constant pain. Abnormal sensations may include a feeling of burning, tingling or ‘pins-and-needles’ that occur spontaneously or as a response to normal stimuli. Another abnormal sensation that can accompany post-stroke pain is hyperalgesia, an abnormally heightened perception of pain. This can cause previously painless stimuli to cause pain. Emotional stress, cold and movement can worsen the symptoms of post-stroke pain.

The impact of post-stroke pain

Pain from any source can significantly impact the quality of life. Post-stroke pain may appear immediately following a stroke but often occurs weeks, months or years later. Whereas physical and occupational therapy often comprise an important part of stroke recovery, post-stroke pain can inhibit movement and rehabilitation. Untreated pain slows recovery and can lead to the weakening of the muscles in affected areas. Pain, along with decreased recovery capacity, are important risks for emotional distress and depression.

Treatment options for post-stroke pain

The first step toward improvement from post-stroke pain is an in-depth understanding of the nature of the problem. At Alliance Spine and Pain Centers, a thorough assessment to elucidate the central from the peripheral pain symptoms allows these pain management professionals to provide customized and targeted pain treatment. Individualized pain management plans may include pharmacological as well as interventional treatments that are tailored over time. With 15 locations in neighborhoods throughout Georgia and the Atlanta metro area, the specialists at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers are available to help on the road to recovery from post-stroke pain. We have locations in Augusta, Austell, Canton, Carrollton, College Park, Conyers, Covington, Dallas, Dawsonville, Decatur, Douglasville, Lawrenceville, Lithonia, Piedmont, and Roswell, Georgia. Give us a call today at (770) 929-9033.

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