DocCornerCentral pain isn’t a condition that comes by itself. Central pain can result as a consequence of a number of other conditions. Most people suffering from neuropathic pain from the central nervous system from these various conditions have no idea that their most distressing symptom, intractable central pain, is shared by people with such a wide range of other health conditions.

The main criteria required for central pain is damage to sensory nerve cells in the central nervous system anywhere from the thalamus down through the spinal cord. There is new research that indicates central pain might even result from injury to parts of the brain besides the thalamus.

Some conditions may damage motor nerve cells in the cord, such as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), but they are not likely to result in central pain unless the disease follows unusual course and eventually involves sensory nerve cells. I should mention that, at least in some cases, it may be challenging for a doctor to definitively diagnose whether nerve pain is the result of central pain or peripheral neuropathy. There are some differences in how a doctor deals with central pain versus the various types of peripheral neuropathy.

Keep in mind that central pain is not the only type of pain that may be associated with any health condition. Only a qualified doctor can diagnose central pain.

Some of the more common causes of central pain are:

  • Stroke (generally involving the thalamus to some extent)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cancer (when it damages CNS sensory nerve cells or the thalamus)
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Physical trauma (such as surgery, gunshot, falls, vehicle accidents, etc.)

There are many other conditions that may result in central pain. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but I will add more conditions as I track them down.

Of course there are additional conditions that can result in central pain if they affect a susceptible part of the central nervous system. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I will add conditions as I track them down. For the reader’s convenience, this list is in alphabetic order.

  • AIDS, especially end-stage
  • Aneurysm
  • Arachnoiditis
  • Arteriovenous malformation
  • Cauda equina syndrome
  • Cervical myelopathy
  • Charcot Marie Tooth
  • Chemical toxicity
  • Cluster headaches (some think this might be a form of central pain)
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Infection (bacterial or viral)
  • Lead neuropathy
  • Meralgia paresthetica
  • Mercury toxicity
  • Myelomalacia
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Posterior myelitis
  • Post-polio syndrome
  • Prion disorders
  • Radiation exposure
  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome
  • Spinal cord infarction
  • Surgical accidents
  • Syringomyelia
  • Tethered cord syndrome
  • Transverse myelitis
  • Vascular malformation
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency
  • Any condition that causes nerve demyelination or other nerve or brain damage.

These are the common names for these conditions in the United States. Please drop me a note if you are aware of other names for any of these conditions. Also, if you are aware of any other conditions that may result in central pain, please let me know.