Allodynia is a type of pain. People with allodynia are extremely sensitive to touch. Activities that aren’t usually painful (like combing one’s hair) can cause severe pain. Many conditions and injuries cause allodynia. To relieve pain, providers treat the condition that’s causing it. Treatments may include medications, PT and therapy.
Allodynia is a type of neuropathic pain (nerve pain). People with allodynia are extremely sensitive to touch. Things that don’t usually cause pain can be very painful. These may include cold temperatures, brushing hair or wearing a cotton t-shirt.
Allodynia can result from several conditions. The most common causes of allodynia include diabetes, shingles, fibromyalgia and migraine headaches.
To relieve allodynia, your provider will treat the condition that’s causing pain. They may also recommend a pain management plan. The plan may include medications to relieve pain and therapy to help you respond to pain in a different way.
Healthcare providers don’t know exactly how many people have allodynia. Up to 10% of people in the US have some type of neuropathic pain. About 15% to 20% of people with neuropathic pain have allodynia.
There are three types of allodynia:
Usually, your nerves send messages (or electrical signals) between your brain and your skin, muscles, and organs. Allodynia happens when the nervous system doesn’t work like it should. There’s a problem with how the nerves send and receive messages. Many injuries and conditions can cause issues with this communication network, including:
Your provider will examine you and ask questions about the pain. They will want to know how often you feel it and what makes it better or worse. Your provider will also ask you to rate your pain on a scale from 0 to 10 and describe how it feels. Many people with allodynia say their skin is sensitive to touch. They usually describe the pain as sharp, stinging or burning. Some describe it as if they have a bad sun burn.
To determine the cause of allodynia, your provider will ask about your health history. They will also want to know about any medications you’re taking. They may perform several tests to check for diabetes, neurological disorders or other conditions. Some of these tests include:
Your provider will treat the condition that’s causing allodynia. If no treatments are available or your provider isn’t sure what’s causing it, they will focus on reducing the pain. As part of a comprehensive pain management plan, your provider may recommend:
You may not be able to prevent allodynia. But you can lower your risk of some conditions that cause allodynia by:
Call your healthcare provider if you have any signs of allodynia. This is especially important if the pain gets in the way of your daily activities or makes it hard for you to sleep. You should call your provider right away if allodynia comes on suddenly or is very painful. It’s important to see your provider for an evaluation and to determine what’s causing the pain.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Allodynia is a symptom of many injuries, diseases and conditions. To help people with allodynia, healthcare providers treat the condition that’s causing the pain. Your provider may recommend a combination of treatments, which can include medications, therapy, PT and counseling. Talk to your provider if allodynia gets worse or interferes with your day-to-day activities. Your provider will work with you to create a plan to reduce pain, help you feel better and improve your quality of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/27/2021.
Learn more about our editorial process.