When simple, everyday actions, such as combing your hair or putting on a shirt, trigger pain during a migraine, you may be experiencing a phenomenon called allodynia. Nearly 80% of people experience allodynia during an active migraine.
This blog will explain what allodynia is, why some people experience it more than others, and what you can do to help alleviate the symptoms.
What Is Allodynia?
Allodynia means “other pain” and refers to the phenomenon of experiencing pain from a typically non-painful stimulus. This is commonly experienced during an active migraine. There are 3 types of allodynia:
- Mechanical allodynia, also called static or tactile allodynia, is pain in response to touch or light pressure, such as from wearing a hat.
- Thermal allodynia is pain felt from hot or cold temperatures, such as washing your hands or being near heat.
- Movement allodynia, also called dynamic allodynia, is pain triggered by brushing the skin, such as from combing your hair.
You can experience one or all of these types of allodynia during an active migraine—and some people may experience them even after a migraine has subsided.
Allodynia pain may feel like it is coming from the skin, however, the pain is actually caused by confusion within the central nervous system causing increased sensitivity and incorrect pain signals.
Allodynia can predict migraine progression
Doctors know that allodynia can be a good predictor of migraine progression. If you experience migraine-induced allodynia and have episodic migraines (fewer than 15 days a month) you are more likely to transition to chronic migraines (more than 15 days a month).
How to cope with and avoid migraine-induced allodynia
There is no cure for allodynia, however, there are things you can do to avoid or alleviate the pain associated with it and migraines:
- Treat migraines right away or take preventative medication. People are encouraged to treat migraines early—before the pain begins to throb—so that allodynia doesn’t have a chance to develop. If you have experienced migraines with allodynia it may be time to consider taking a preventative medication, such as an anti-CGRP (Aimovig, Ajovy).
- Recognize triggers that cause pain and try to avoid them during an active migraine. For example, if during a migraine you are sensitive to light try to relax in a dark room if possible.
These suggestions, as well as being cognizant of allodynia pain, are a crucial part of managing your migraines. Being aware of symptoms can help your doctor provide treatment options that offer the best outcomes.