Central Sensitization: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Central Sensitization refers to a condition in which there is a modification in the working of our Central Nervous system (CNS) due to pain. Actually the central nervous system becomes more sensitive towards pain and even small provocation produces more pain. It is known as central sensitization because it affects the CNS of our body specifically, means the brain and spinal cord.

Pathology of Central sensitization

The central sensitization is called so because it affects the Central Nervous system of our body. The patients with central sensitization problem do not only become sensitive to pain or something, which hurts but also become extra sensitive to things ordinary senses like a touch or mild pressure. The pain fades slowly in such people and is in the form of an ‘echo’. In some patients, the case is severe and there is over sensitivity and in some patients the sensitivity is mild. The patients cannot make out the difference between the actual pain and the sensitized pain or which is the worse form of pain.

It is really awful and sad that this neurological disorder is such a constant complication in many of the pains and inflammation that many neurologists have considered it to be the major denominator which is common for most of the consistent pain problems. It gives the normal pain ‘chronicity’ and makes it chronic irrespective of the actual cause of the pains.

Causes of Central sensitization

There is no doubt that central sensitization exists, but it happens to only some people and many people are totally unaware of it. The cause of the central sensitization is not exactly clear, but it can be either due to genetic factors or due to environmental factors. Although the causes are genetic and environmental, but which genes are responsible for it and what environmental factors are responsible for it is still unclear. It has been probably guessed that it might be due to stress.

Another loophole in the scientific knowledge about central sensitization is that there is no clear cut or fixed criteria for diagnosing it. Any kind of lab test or diagnostic agent is unavailable which can confirm the frequency of sensitization. The pain can be chronic and be due to any reason, which might be mistaken for central sensitization.


Central sensitization is a condition in which the CNS becomes extra sensory and amplifies the pain sensation and also the simple sensory inputs like a touch or pressure. Therefore, the main symptom of it is increased sensitivity and enhanced response to sensation. This increased sensitivity includes agility at a neuronal level which increases sensation for future stimulation. The increased sensitivity produces perception of pain even from simple stimuli, which is termed as ‘Allodynia’ and an extreme pain would be sensed from a painful stimulus which is termed as ‘Hyperalgesia.’ A prominent hypersensitivity of the periphery of our body can affect every system and every organ of the body and produce extreme uneasiness. At cellular level the central sensitization occurs as a result of multiple processes changing the functional status of neurons.

Membrane excitability, reduction in inhibitory transmission and aiding of synaptic strength are included in these processes. The affected neurons exhibit continuous activity and decreased activation threshold and bigger accessible fields.


The change in the brain activity due to central sensitization can be perceived by Functional Magnetic Resonance or by Positron Emission Tomographic Imaging and similar techniques. Because this problem is related to CNS the drugs, which work for the central nervous system can be the most effective treatment for the pain and the entire pain system malfunction. It is advisable to visit a physician who can treat the chronic pain and also provide medication for it.