Chronic Pain: Common Poststroke Complaint

One in 10 stroke survivors suffers from some new form of chronic poststroke pain, according to a recent analysis published in the May 2013 issue of the journal Stroke. Researchers reviewed data from a recent large-scale study of almost 16,000 people who suffered mild-to-moderate ischemic strokes.

Injury to the brain caused by a stroke can result in central poststroke pain syndrome—a disorder that can make even a gentle touch to the body cause intolerable pain. CPSP was the most common condition, which was more frequent in people whose strokes were most severe, who had a history of depression and who were younger. The study found, too, that people who developed chronic pain after a stroke also experienced a greater loss of cognitive abilities and were twice as likely as other patients to have physical limitations that required them to rely on others for daily assistance.

About two-thirds of patients who develop central pain following a stroke have a condition called allodynia, or extreme sensitivity to being touched. If you have allodynia, you experience pain from stimuli that others perceive as harmless or even pleasant. For some, that means a gentle caress on the arm, the weight of a bed sheet or a soft breeze may hurt instead of bring comfort. For others, warm or cool temperatures may feel unbearable.

Some scientists think that people develop allodynia as an exaggerated response to injury, such as the damage caused by a stroke. To help guard against future harm, the theory goes, the body lowers its pain threshold to make itself more sensitive to subsequent threats.

Allodynia is a symptom of other conditions, as well, such as fibromyalgia and migraine headaches.

Certain medications may help control the pain of allodynia and restore a normal response to pain.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 14 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015