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Surprising Causes of Increased Pain

Dec 23, 2021

Surprising Causes of Increased Pain


When we have an injury or some other discernable cause of pain, we naturally expect that pain to diminish over time. The normal healing process takes place, and we experience less pain and less awareness of the injury as time goes by. It is not long before we have forgotten about the problem as the pain has completely subsided.

Some people experience pain that does not go away or can seem to increase without causation. While this is not a normal occurrence, increased pain has become more prevalent in the last few decades.

Hyperalgesia is a condition where a person develops an increasingly extreme reaction to stimuli. What may not hurt most people can cause significant pain in an individual with hyperalgesia. Although there are many potential causes associated with hyperalgesia, the condition is thought to be the result of changes to nerve pathways, which cause a person’s nerves to have an overactive response to pain.

Doctors usually divide hyperalgesia into primary and secondary categories. Both conditions are due to initial tissue trauma and inflammation.

Primary hyperalgesia is when the increased pain occurs in the tissue where the injury took place. An example would be when a person has surgery on their elbow, and the pain starts to worsen over time instead of improving.

Secondary hyperalgesia occurs when the pain seems to spread to non-injured tissue or tissues. An example of this would be a person with an injury to their right shoulder that starts to feel pain in their left arm.

There are many causes of hyperalgesia, let’s review the more common ones:

  • Stress-induced hyperalgesia – as the name implies, stress leads to hyper-response in our pain receptors. This is due to our pain receptors and neurotransmitters sending heightened signals to our brain. Chronic stress can lead to anxiety and/or depression that will often increase hyperalgesia. As a side note – chronic stress can also cause the opposite of hyperalgesia, that is a condition called anesthesia.
  • Diabetes – excessively high blood sugar causes neurotransmitters to become hyper-sensitized and send pain signals to our brain due to various stimuli.
  • Systemic infections – infection in any part of the body can lead to increase pain being felt in either primary or secondary sites.
  • Poor sleep or insomnia – if we are not getting the rest we need, our neurotransmitters for pain can go into hyper-drive and bombard us with signals of pain.
  • Nutritional deficiencies and poor diet – all nerve signals that direct our perception of pain rely on complex balances of chemical substances in our bodies. These balances are easily thrown astray if we lack vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients in our diet. Vitamins D, C and B are vital to our neurotransmitters. Minerals such as calcium, magnesium and sodium are necessary as well.

An unfortunate development in hyperalgesia over the last decade is opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). When a person becomes more sensitive to pain as a result of taking opioid medication, it’s called opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). Due to the increase in opioid usage, OIH is becoming more of a concern. The symptoms of OIH typically develop despite an increase in the dosage or amount of opioid taken. OIH is a very serious condition and can require extensive in-patient care to overcome.

There is no standard way to diagnose or treat hyperalgesia. Search out a specialist with experience and extensive training if you suffer with increasing pain. Be Blessed.

Category: Dr. Sterling