Pain Conditions Treated

Central Pain Syndrome

At Bay State Pain Associates, Our Expert Pain Management Specialists Provide Effective Treatments in West Bridgewater & Norfolk, MA for Central Pain Syndromes, Formerly Known As Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) Syndrome.

Central Pain Syndrome

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Central Pain syndrome is one of the most difficult pain syndromes to treat effectively. There are currently no existing treatments that are uniformly successful and the neurophysiology is understood poorly, which limits development and application of new treatments. It arises following a partial or complete injury with in the nervous system.

The treatment is mostly in the form of medical management and physical therapy. Surgical management may be considered in few situations if the etiology of the pain has been clearly defined. Examples of central pain are pain following stroke, multiple sclerosis, phantom pain, post amputation pain, and pain following spinal cord injuries.

What Are the Symptoms of Central Pain Syndrome?

Central pain syndrome is characterized by a mixture of pain sensations, the most prominent being a constant burning. The steady burning sensation is sometimes increased by light touch. Pain also increases in the presence of temperature changes, most often cold temperatures. A loss of sensation can occur in affected areas, most prominently on distant parts of the body, such as the hands and feet. There may be brief, intolerable bursts of sharp pain on occasion.

How Is Central Pain Syndrome Treated?

Pain medications often provide little or no relief for those affected by central pain syndrome. However, some antidepressants and anticonvulsants can be useful in treating central pain syndrome.

What causes central pain syndrome? 

CPS refers to pain that comes from the brain and not from the peripheral nerves, which are outside of the brain and spinal cord. For this reason, it differs from most other pain conditions.

Pain is usually a protective response to a harmful stimulus, such as touching a hot stove. No harmful stimulus causes the pain that occurs in CPS. Instead, an injury to the brain creates the perception of pain. This injury usually occurs in the thalamus, a structure within the brain that processes sensory signals to other parts of the brain.

The most common conditions that can lead to CPS include:

  • brain hemorrhage
  • a stroke
  • multiple sclerosis
  • brain tumors
  • an aneurysm
  • a spinal cord injury
  • a traumatic brain injury
  • epilepsy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • surgical procedures that involve the brain or spine
    The Central Pain Syndrome Foundation estimates that nearly 3 million people in the United States have CPS.

How is central pain syndrome diagnosed?

CPS can be difficult to diagnose. The pain may be widespread and may seem unrelated to any injury or trauma. No single test is available to enable your doctor to diagnose CPS.

Your doctor will review your symptoms, perform a physical exam, and ask about your medical history. It’s very important to inform your doctor about any conditions or injuries you have now or may have had in the past, and any medications you’re taking. CPS doesn’t develop by itself. It only occurs following an injury to the CNS.

What are the complications of central pain syndrome?

CPS can be painful. It can keep you from participating in social events and greatly impact your daily life. It can lead to emotional problems and other complications including:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • sleep disturbances
  • relationship problems
  • anger
  • a decrease in quality of life
  • isolation
  • suicidal thoughts

What is the outlook for people with central pain syndrome?

CPS isn’t life-threatening, but the condition causes considerable difficulty for most people. CPS can potentially disrupt your daily routine.

In severe cases, the pain can be severe and greatly impact your quality of life. Some people can manage the pain with medications, but the condition typically lasts for the rest of a person’s life.