I can’t even count anymore, how many times people asked me this. It’s nice to know people care but after a while it can become vexing. I am not talking about those who ask because they don’t know you, I am talking about those, to whom you already explained your diagnosis before. Even though I try my best to explain what Central Sensitization (CS) is, it’s hard for most of us to really comprehend how it works, what causes it and how it can be managed.
Medical world itself has doctors who never even heard of CS. Because it’s something that can’t be treated with a pill, nor can it be diagnosed through one single test, there is still quite a bit of skepticism around it. Nevertheless, neurologists who study our brain and specifically show interest in CS field, have done some remarkable work over a few decades it has been introduced (the first evidence of CS was generated in 1983).
Anyway, enough of the statistics, let’s talk in real simple terms. I will try and be as accurate as I can to remove some of the confusion around CS. Of course, it will be based purely on my personal diagnosis and experience.
Questions & Answers
What is Central Sensitization and what causes it? As my neurologist explained to me, CS is change in our nervous system that amplifies pain throughout our bodies and manifests through multitude of symptoms. It can be caused both by physical injuries and/or non-physical changes in your body, usually response to various stimuli. As I never had a physical injury to my brain or spine, my condition was caused by external factors that affected my brain. As my doctor put ‘my brain has overheated’.
Diagnosis and treatment of CS. Well, this is the tough part. As I mentioned, I never even heard about CS, until I went to a neurologist to find out, what is causing these ridiculous headaches that just won’t go away. There is no actual blood test, x-ray or any other medically common test that can diagnose this condition (other than maybe EEG that can show electrical activity of the brain). It’s more about the doctor understanding your symptoms, ruling out any other illnesses and coming to a conclusion based on all of the above.
When it comes to treatment, there is none. You can’t go get a pill, or get an operation or do some other magical treatment and your brain would go back to normal. However, by understanding your own symptoms, you can learn to manage them, reduce triggers in your environment and hopefully with time, improve your quality of life. I’ve also read that in some cases CS can be reversed, if you manage successfully to ‘overwrite’ your brain.
One thing that I can really say, is that the fact that I got diagnosed, gave me clarity and inner calmness. It’s funny, but after my doctor gave me the diagnosis and my brain MRI came back clear, my headaches became less unbearable. Yes, I still get them daily, but I do have days when I only feel heaviness at the back of my head and pressure in my ears. So clearly, mental games play a huge part in my pain management.
I also want to talk about my symptoms, because for many years I just thought that I am someone who has many health problems for no reason. Most prominent and obvious ones are: migraines and headaches. To be more specific, pressure at the back of my head and temples. Sensitivity to temperature. I am always either hot or cold, it’s very difficult for me to find comfortable temperature. Ear ringing and occasional pressure in and around ears. IBS and sensitive stomach. I do have food intolerances but IBS is also a very common symptom of CS. Sensitive bladder. I pee a lot and never leave the house without going to the toilet first. An over excitable, sensitive, anxious personality. This one is my favorite, because it actually kind of is the main reason why I got CS but it’s also a symptom (talking about Catch 22)! Muscle pain and fatigue. This is quite new to me, as it started almost the same time as my headaches. I find that it’s harder for me to do physical exercises and I also get very tired, very quickly (especially in winter months).
Get Your Answer
Even though I know that CS is not something that can be easily treated or treated at all, I am hopeful that I will learn to live with it in peace. Of course, I am still not done with tests, as I want to rule out any other factors that might be affecting me, but I am happy I have my biggest question answered. Personally, there is nothing worse than the unknown. So, to whoever will be reading this post, please get your answers, even if it takes ages. Go see multiple specialists, until you get your diagnosis. Once you do, research and read about your condition, share your story and be ready to be asked, a million times: Are you better now?