Knowledge Base

What is central neuropathic pain?

Central neuropathic pain (or central neuropathy) is used to describe damage or injury to the central nervous system (CNS), which is composed of the brain, brainstem and spinal cord. The CNS is responsible for receiving and coordinating information from the rest of the body. Because it plays such an important role, damage to the CNS can result in localized or widespread pain which is, in many cases, constant.  

Central neuropathy often begins shortly after the causative injury or damage, but may be delayed by months or even years, especially if it is related to a stroke (also referred to as post-stroke pain).  

Central neuropathy 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.  


Adapted with permission from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.

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 August 5, 2014