Because pain actually occurs in the brain—not where you feel it—it’s possible for your hair to hurt during your migraine, according to an article at Migraine.com by Ellen Schnakenberg. The painful migraine symptom is called allodynia, and it’s the result of a medical phenomenon referred to as central sensitization in the brain.
Place your hand on a hot stove and a signal is sent to your brain, through your spinal cord, which then registers that you’ve touched something hot. For most people, that results in a painful sensation and the stimulus needed to pull your hand away from the stove.
“Our brains don’t always work like they should,” Schnakenberg writes. “Allodynia is a medical term used to describe a patient who is experiencing pain from something that normally shouldn’t cause pain — like bedsheets, or air movement.”
For people who suffer from migraine disease, that pain is often felt on the skin—such as on the scalp, face or neck. It’s ultimately a result of the neurological processes of migraine.
Related to that is central sensitization, which is a term that describes the brain’s cells becoming overly sensitive, or excitable.
“An easy way to describe it is that the neurons develop a ‘memory’ of the pain signals that are present during a Migraine attack and it changes accordingly to make the pain signals travel more easily,” she writes.
The result can be allodynia—pain where you don’t expect it.
Schnakenberg equates that pain memory to the idea of a small road eventually being expanded into a highway. Migraine appears to be a progressive disease, which would mean that the more developed the pathways for pain become, the harder the pain is to treat.
She has these suggestions:
- Realize how important it is to manage your migraine disease. Avoiding triggers and using preventatives can slow down the progression, where the pain of later migraine attacks can be that much worse.
- If you recognize symptoms of central sensitization and allodynia, tell your headache specialist. This is especially true if your abortive medication isn’t working.
- Know more about migraine disease and related symptoms. Read the full article, and talk to your headache specialist about your medications, strategies and any changes or differences in your migraine attacks.
Here’s the full article, “Migraine, Allodynia, and Central Sensitization,” from Migraine.com.