Fibromyalgia Related Allodynia: When Clothes Hurt

Fibromyalgia patients deal with a myriad of puzzling and frustrating symptoms, and sensations. While every spoonie has their own regular combination, every now and again a new symptom pops up to remind us that our fibromyalgia can always get worse. This past month I’ve been struggling with allodynia, a new symptom in my fibro journey.  This article defines allodynia and offers a few management tips for relief. 


Allodynia is a relatively rare increase in central pain sensitization that can be caused by different factors in different people.  This increase in sensitization makes common things, not normally painful, suddenly unbearable.  Allodynia can occur in localized areas of your body, or all over, and the location may change over time.  You may have  allodynia if you experience pain or tenderness, tingling, pins and needles, or a burning sensation that has no other explanation.  I have often heard it described as feeling like you have a severe sunburn.  If you have been experiencing symptoms of allodynia, you should talk with your medical team.

I’ve been lucky in the past to not experience much fibromyalgia related allodynia.  However, in recent months that has changed.  In fact, it seems like the lighter the touch something has, the more pain it’s currently causing me.  My skin has that scratchy burning sensation common with a bad sunburn, except there are no visible signs that anything is wrong.


Types of Allodynia

Fibromyalgia related allodynia can include the following types of pain.

Mechanical allodynia, also known as tactile allodynia, is not completely understood.  Tactile allodynia is often closely associated with both nerve damage, and migraines.  Many different types of stimuli can trigger the pain.

  • Static mechanical allodynia is pain in response to the lightest including normal contact with furniture or clothing.  At its worst, even the breeze on a sunny day can trigger the pain of  allodynia.
  • Dynamic mechanical allodynia is pain caused by light stroking.  People suffering from allodynia often feel intense pain from daily activity like shaving, or brushing ones hair.

Thermal allodynia is pain caused by normally mild changes in skin temperatures that are not great enough to cause tissue damage. Sudden exposure to either mild hot or cold temperature changes against the skin, such as a droplet of cool water, can cause pain.


When clothes hurt, fibromyalgia related allodynia

 Allodynia Trivia

American businessman and aviator Howard Hughes suffered from allodynia.  The condition was most certainly a contributing factor in his eccentric behaviors and reclusive lifestyle. Mr. Hughes often sat naked on a chair alone in a room for months at a time, watching movies to try and distract himself.

Allodynia Management Tips

Talk to your medical team about medical solutions.  Lyrica, Neurontin, and tricyclic antidepressants have offered relief to some people suffering from Allodynia.

Dry skin can exasperate allodynia. Use a hydrating lotion without dyes or perfumes to moisturize your skin. Apply the lotion with deep, firm strokes to avoid aggravating the things further.

Over the counter topical pain relief (such as Biofreeze or Tiger balm) can sometimes help ease the pain for a limited amount of time. Avoid ones that use capsaicin and instead go for something that includes lidocaine.

Soft fabrics can become an obsession for people with allodynia. It’s no wonder when everyday contact with fabrics causes pain. Look for soft cottons, silks, and even new tech fabrics to make your bed and wardrobe more comfortable.

Invest in high quality bed linens to ease the sensations at nighttime and help you get better sleep. Egyptian and Pima cottons have long fibers that wash well, try a 600 thread count or higher.

Take your clothes off and relax. While you need to wear clothing when you leave the house, there is nothing wrong with finding some privacy for yourself at home and removing the offending clothing all together.

While keeping busy won’t take the constant sting of allodynia away, focusing on other things can provide a temporary distraction. Redirect your thoughts towards something else like a new project, movie, or book.

I hope that this article has given you a better understanding of allodynia and how it can effect the lives of fibromyalgia patients. As Spring finally shows its lovely face here in Northern Illinois, I’m hopeful that my Winter flare will be on it’s way.  For now though – I’m off to run my sheets through the washing machine one more time.


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