In some people, the central nervous system (the spinal cord and brain) processes pain differently and amplifies the pain. This is called centralized pain or central pain syndrome. With this condition, you may feel pain more strongly, and your ability to tolerate pain is decreased. Something that doesn’t cause pain for others may feel painful to you (allodynia). Painful sensations may hurt you even more (hyperalgesia). Fibromyalgia is the most common type of central amplification arthritis-related condition.
Pain from all types of arthritis – osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis or a soft-tissue musculoskeletal disorder – may come and go or be constant. For some people, this pain can become centralized pain over time. In arthritis-related conditions, pain messages are continually being sent to the brain. Because the central nervous system is changeable, nerves that deliver pain messages get better at it over time, until the body responds to small messages of pain as if they are big ones. Also, if you keep experiencing pain, your brain may develop a “pain memory.” Then it may have faster and stronger responses to pain signals.
Researchers suggest that the fatigue and low energy felt by people living with chronic pain may happen because their nervous system gets too much stimulation. All that activity may reduce “feel good” brain chemicals – such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine – that help combat feelings of pain.
Early, aggressive treatment of the source of pain and preventing it from getting worse may reduce your risk of developing centralized pain.