What is cutaneous allodynia?


Cutaneous allodynia is characterized by pain provoked by stimulation of the skin that would ordinarily not produce pain. It is not an increased sensitivity to pain.


“It is called cutaneous allodynia, and basically what it's representing is that our nervous system has become sensitized, so it's become hyperactive. It's not inhibiting pain in the way that it normally should, and this results in what should be non-painful type stimulation, like some of the things you mentioned, actually being uncomfortable.

“Just a light touch of the skin, whether that be on the face, or the scalp, can be uncomfortable. I might want to loosen my collar, you know, not wear a tie, these types of things. Men may not want to shave, because all this, of course, hurts when it shouldn't.

“Like we mentioned with pain thresholds, this kind of tracks the pain thresholds that we talked about. Folks with migraine are going to have the most severe allodynia during migraine attacks, but they might actually have some degree of that even in between attacks. It's common. About 75% of people with migraine develop allodynia during a migraine attack.”


Cutaneous allodynia occurs when the nervous system becomes hyperactive, and it is very common among those with migraine. It can be present both during and between migraine attacks, and the severity of the allodynia can fluctuate during and between attacks, as well.

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Todd Schwedt, MD

Professor of Neurology
Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Arizona

As a Professor of Neurology the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Arizona, Dr. Todd Schwedt has seen thousands of migraine patients and evaluated a large number of scans of our hypersensitive brains. His research using advanced MRI techniques has been widely published. He serves on the Board of Directors of the American Headache Society, is the Vice Chairman of the Headache and Facial Pain section of the American Academy of Neurology, is a member of the International Headache Society Classification Committee, and is an Associate editor of Headache, Cephalalgia and Pain Medicine journals.