Photo of a doctor sitting on a bed with a senior patient holding his back in pain

You may be asking yourself all sorts of questions when you feel pain somewhere in your body. Because each one of us feels pain differently it is important to know what could be causing us pain. Post-stroke pain can occur immediately, weeks, or sometimes even months after a stroke. Research shows that more than half of stroke survivors have some form of post-stroke pain. In some cases, the pain is constant (chronic) and in others, it comes and goes.

There are several areas where you can experience pain after a stroke. Local pain will be in the joints and central pain will be something like a burning or “pins-and-needles” sensation.

While there are lots of different symptoms of pain, they are generallyc ategorized into two types: local and central.

Local Pain
Local (mechanical)pain is usually felt in the joints. Shoulder pain is especially common among stroke survivors.

Central Pain
Central post-stroke pain (CPSP) is described as constant, moderate, or severe pain caused by damage to the brain. This means that after a stroke, your brain does not understand normal messages sent from the body in response to touch, warmth, cold, and other stimuli. Instead, the brain may register even slight sensations on your skin as painful.

The symptoms of post-stroke pain may be:
  • Constant (chronic)
  • Come and go
  • Felt on part or all of the side of your body affected by the stroke
  • Felt on your face, arm, leg or torso (trunk)
  • Aching, burning, sharp, stabbing or itching
If you have central pain symptoms, you may:
  • Feel nothing when a sharp pin, warmth or cold is being applied to your skin.
  • Experience normal touching as unpleasant and painful.
  • Feel more pain with emotional stress, cold or movement.
  • Stop using your body parts that constantly feel pain.
  • Allow your muscles to weaken.
  • Misuse drugs, suffer from depression and increase your dependency on family members.

There are treatment options available for post-stroke pain including medication and physical therapy. Some stroke survivors are hesitant to discuss post-stroke pain with their doctor because they think it is normal or are afraid of seeming weak. It is important to let your healthcare provider know what you are experiencing to find the right treatment plan for you, experts recommend that you
  • Keep a pain diary. Record where the pain comes from and how long the pain lasts.
  • Be Specific. Note whether pain is coming from something or someone touching you.
The following is a list of common types of medications your healthcare profession make recommend to treat post-stroke pain:
  • Analgesic pain killers
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-spasticity muscle relaxants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Other treatments
  • Physical Therapy
  • Injections of cortisone (steroid shots)
  • Heat and stretching exercises (for shoulder pain)
  • Electrical nerve stimulation, or the application of electrical currents to the skin, may stimulate nerves and muscle fibers and improve muscle tone and strength to reduce pain

Here are some tips you can practice at home:
  • Avoid things that can cause pain, such as hot baths, tight or easily bunched clothing, and pressure on the side of your body affected by the stroke.
  • Position paralyzed arms or legs to reduce discomfort.
  • Use heat packs or simple exercises prescribed by your physical therapist.
  • While sitting or lying down, support your paralyzed arm on an armrest or pillow to relieve shoulder pain.
  • Use a shoulder support while walking.
  • Try relaxation, meditation or hypnosis.
  • Remain active, to avoid possible muscle spasms or loss of muscle.
  • Depression is common among those who suffer from chronic pain. Seek help through your doctor or caregiver if you feel depressed.
  • Speak honestly with caregivers and healthcare professionals about your pain.