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Central Pain Syndrome Information Page

Table of Contents
What is Central Pain Syndrome?
Is there any treatment?
What is the prognosis?
What research is being done?
Organizations

What is Central Pain Syndrome?
Central pain syndrome is a neurological condition caused by damage to or dysfunction of the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain, brainstem, and spinal cord. This syndrome can be caused by stroke, multiple sclerosis, tumors, epilepsy, brain or spinal cord trauma, or Parkinson's disease. The character of the pain associated with this syndrome differs widely among individuals partly because of the variety of potential causes. Central pain syndrome may affect a large portion of the body or may be more restricted to specific areas, such as hands or feet. The extent of pain is usually related to the cause of the CNS injury or damage. Pain is typically constant, may be moderate to severe in intensity, and is often made worse by touch, movement, emotions, and temperature changes, usually cold temperatures. Individuals experience one or more types of pain sensations, the most prominent being burning. Mingled with the burning may be sensations of "pins and needles;" pressing, lacerating, or aching pain; and brief, intolerable bursts of sharp pain similar to the pain caused by a dental probe on an exposed nerve. Individuals may have numbness in the areas affected by the pain. The burning and loss of touch sensations are usually most severe on the distant parts of the body, such as the feet or hands. Central pain syndrome often begins shortly after the causative injury or damage, but may be delayed by months or even years, especially if it is related to post-stroke pain.

Is there any treatment?
Pain medications often provide some reduction of pain, but not complete relief of pain, for those affected by central pain syndrome. Tricyclic antidepressants such as nortriptyline or anticonvulsants such as Neurontin (gabapentin) can be useful. Lowering stress levels appears to reduce pain.

What is the prognosis?
Central pain syndrome is not a fatal disorder, but the syndrome causes disabling chronic pain and suffering among the majority of individuals who have it.

What research is being done?
The NINDS vigorously pursues a research program seeking new treatments for chronic pain and nervous system damage. The goals of this research are to develop ways to more effectively treat and potentially reverse debilitating conditions such as central pain syndrome.

Organizations

American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)
P.O. Box 850
Rocklin, CA   95677-0850
ACPA@pacbell.net
http://www.theacpa.org/
Tel: 916-632-0922 800-533-3231
Fax: 916-632-3208

American Pain Foundation
201 North Charles Street
Suite 710
Baltimore, MD   21201-4111
info@painfoundation.org
http://www.painfoundation.org/
Tel: 888-615-PAIN (7246) 410-783-7292
Fax: 410-385-1832

National Chronic Pain Outreach Association (NCPOA)
P.O. Box 274
Millboro, VA   24460
ncpoa@cfw.com
http://www.chronicpain.org/
Tel: 540-862-9437
Fax: 540-862-9485

National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain
P.O. Box 70045
Houston, TX   77270
markgordon@paincare.org
http://www.paincare.org/
Tel: 713-862-9332
Fax: 713-862-9346

Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

Last updated December 03, 2004
 

   
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