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Skin Is Sensitive to the Touch – Causes and Possible Treatments

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Skin Is Sensitive to the Touch – Causes and Possible Treatments

Skin that is sensitive to the touch is a frustrating, and sometimes, unbearable condition which can cause people discomfort and pain. The medical name for skin pain or tenderness is allodynia and it causes the skin to become very sensitive to even the slightest of touches. So, even things like a breeze, brushing light material against the skin, or gently touching the skin can cause pain and sensitivity.

Sensitive skin which is sore to touch can be divided into 4 different categories:

  • Tactile or mechanical allodynia is when the skin hurts when touched.
  • Dynamic mechanical allodynia is pain caused by light brushing across the skin.
  • Static mechanical allodynia is when light pressure causes sore skin.
  • Thermal allodynia describes the pain when mild changes in temperature make the skin sore to touch.

Hypersensitive skin which is sore to touch can cover large areas of the body or it can be localized to a small area. It is quite easy to test if you have the symptoms of sore skin or skin that is sensitive to touch. For example, take a light piece of gauze and brush it over your skin, or try blowing on your skin. If you experience any kind of pain, itchiness, tenderness, or a tingling feeling, then you may have allodynia.

Usually, this kind of skin pain is not accompanied by a rash or any other visible symptoms.

Skin Sensitive to Touch – Causes

There can be many reasons for having a hypersensitive skin that is sore to touch. In some cases, there are effective home remedies which can help to relieve the pain. There are, of course, reasons for this skin sensitivity which are caused by external factors, like sunburn or skin injuries. However, this article looks at the neurological reasons why skin can become very sensitive.


Fibromyalgia is a complex condition which is associated with chronic pain and one of its symptoms is skin that hurts, even if you barely touch it. Changes in temperature or clothing brushing on your skin can cause pain on the skin.

Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Dr. Lisa R. Sammaritano says that fibromyalgia causes increased sensitivity called “tender points.” So, even light pressure from touching the skin can cause localized pain. The reason why just a light touch causes the skin to be sore seems to be the fact that the brain interprets these signals as pain.

It is important to work together with your medical practitioner to manage the pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia. The American Academy of Family Physicians says that good nutrition, regular sleep, and low-impact aerobic exercise can help to ease your symptoms.2

My article, about the 10 foods to avoid when living with chronic pain provides some helpful advice on diet and lifestyle changes you can easily implement to get relief from chronic pain. Also the natural supplement D-ribose can help to improve energy production to alleviate chronic fatigue.


If you suffer from migraines, you may find that your skin becomes hypersensitive during a migraine attack. Even something as simple as combing your hair or touching your skin when you have a migraine could cause unbearable pain.

Professor of Anesthesia and Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Rami Burstein explains the reasons why migraines make the skin tender and painful to touch. He says that one of the reasons for increased skin pain is that the neurons in the nerves in the brain become more sensitive to stimuli. So even mild brushing or heat can make the skin painful to touch.3 Studies have shown that around 63% of migraine sufferers also experience skin that is sensitive to touch.4

The American Academy of Neurology says that preventative measures can reduce migraine attacks by more than half. They recommend the butterbur plant as an effective natural remedy to prevent migraines.5 This is just one of the natural ways to relieve a migraine that I have previously written about. You can also use essential oils for treating migraines as well as these natural ways to reduce stress levels.

There is also some evidence to suggest that a vitamin B deficiency could also trigger migraines in some people.



During times of heightened stress and anxiety, you may find that your skin becomes more sensitive to touch. During times of stress, the body releases chemicals to sharpen our senses and stimulate the nervous system. Some people under extreme mental stress experience hypersensitivity in the skin which causes pain when touched. The journal Drugs Under Experimental and Clinical Research reported that patients who have anxiety and anxiety-related conditions experience symptoms associated with hypersensitivity of skin.6

If you find that your skin is painful to touch when you are anxious, you can try some relaxation techniques to reduce the skin’s sensitivity. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends the following strategies to lower stress levels:7

  • Take some time out to relax, listen to music, or have a massage.
  • Eat regular nutritional meals.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Engage in moderate to intense physical activity 3 times a week.

Bergamot essential oil is one of the best essential oils for anxiety and depression, and can be used in aromatherapy to help reduce anxiety and work-related stress. You can find out more about the amazing health benefits and uses of bergamot essential oil by reading my article. There you can read about a study that shows that bergamot oil is just as effective as diazepam, one of the most popular anti-anxiety medications, in reducing anxiety.


Shingles are described as a painful, blistering rash on the skin that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Shingles cause unbearable pain on the skin which can last for a few weeks. For shingles to develop, a person must have had chicken pox in childhood. Shingles appear when the immune system becomes weak and the virus affects the nerve cells, so the older we get the more prone we become to developing shingles.8

Dr. Louise Chang on WebMD says that sometimes the skin sensitivity and pain can continue after the red skin rash has disappeared and this is called postherpetic neuralgia. This is nerve pain due to damage caused by the varicella zoster virus.9 The result is that the skin is very sensitive to the touch. In fact, it can be so sensitive that even dressing, turning in your bed at night or a light breeze can make your skin painful.


One way to reduce the pain caused by shingles is to use Manuka honey as a topical treatment. Research has shown that Manuka honey can be used to treat shingles just as effectively as antiviral drugs.10 Another study showed that honey is just as effective as acyclovir in treating the herpes simplex virus.11 Acyclovir is commonly used to treat outbreaks of shingles.

Soak a gauze in Manuka honey and place it directly onto the affected skin area to treat the virus that causes shingles and to soothe your painful skin.

Geranium oil is another home remedy you can use if shingles have caused skin that is sensitive to touch, and it is one of the best essential oil for treating shingles. This oil has been proven to be effective in getting rid of pain caused by postherpetic neuralgia. One study showed that it provides quick relief from shingles pain and is more effective than capsaicin cream.12


Diabetes can cause nerve damage which can make your skin sensitive and painful to touch. Very often diabetes sufferers find that their skin is sensitive to touch on their leg even though there is no rash with it. The journal Current Neuropharmacology says that allodynia can affect some diabetics so much that touching the skin causes extremely severe pain.13

Diabetes should be managed under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner. However, doctors generally agree that making lifestyle changes like losing weight, being more active, and having a healthy well-balanced diet can help to manage the symptoms of diabetes.14

You can find more helpful information on how to manage your diabetes in my articles about the best foods to control diabetes, how to use apple cider vinegar for diabetes, and in my article about the best spices and herbs for diabetes.


Lyme disease (tick bites)

Lyme disease is transmitted by the bite of a tick and if left untreated can cause sensitive skin. The initial symptoms are like having the flu and maybe developing a round red rash around the area of the tick bite. If not diagnosed Lyme disease can progress and cause more serious complications, one of which is that the skin can become very sensitive to touch. According to the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Lyme disease can cause allodynia which can appear months to years after being infected.15

The best way to prevent getting Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten by a tick. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following to avoid tick bites:

  • Keep long pants tucked into your socks.
  • Wear a hat and gloves.
  • Use insect repellents.
  • Check yourself for ticks after returning from a walk.

If you have been tested positive for Lyme disease and your doctor prescribes antibiotics, remember to do these 3 things after taking antibiotics to restore healthy bacteria in your digestive system.

Vitamin deficiency

Some people experience a tingling sensation on their skin because of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Dr. Brunilda Nazario on WebMD says that other symptoms of a lack of vitamin B12 are tiredness, heart palpitations, digestive problems, and behavioral changes.16

A study published in 2013 into how B12 supplements can reduce pain, found that they help to keep the brain and nervous system working properly and help blood to form. Those who took the supplements found that vitamin B12 helped to reduce the pain associated with sensitive skin. This also helped relieve pain caused by shingles.17

If you think you may suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency, please read my article on the warning signs of vitamin B12 deficiency. There you can find practical advice on how to fix it.

Demyelinating Diseases

Skin that is sensitive to touch is also associated with diseases that affect the nervous system, for example, multiple sclerosis (MS). These diseases result in damage to the protective covering that surrounds nerve fibers in your brain and spinal cord. Of course, skin that is sore to touch and increased skin sensitivity is just one of the many symptoms of demyelinating diseases.

Read these related articles:
1. Seven Types of Pain You should Never Ignore
2. The Top 16 Essential Oils to Relieve Pain and Inflammation
3. Top 22 Natural Painkillers in Your Kitchen
4. How to Make Anti-Inflammatory and Pain Relief Turmeric Ginger Tea
Article Sources

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26 Responses to Skin Is Sensitive to the Touch – Causes and Possible Treatments

  1. MICHAEL says:

    The past 7 months I have been suffering from a skin condition that is very sensitive to even gentle brushing, or skin to skin contact and even my clothing will cause me unbearable pain and discomfort.

    Initially, there were rashes, so the doctors said it was hives and prescribed prednisolone and cetirizin plus a steroid jab. But now the condition is chronic and systemic with no symptoms. Its as if the whole body has ants crawling all over it. The eyes are also affected, watery and itchy coupled with a migraine.

    Please assist with much needed advice

    • Jenny Hills, Medical Writer and Researcher says:

      Hi Michael, I’ve seen in Mayo Clinic that hives can become a chronic if the welts appear for more than six weeks and recur frequently over months or years. However you say you don’t have rash now, so maybe what you had was something else? maybe shingles? In my article I’ve mentioned that sometimes the skin sensitivity and pain caused by shingles can continue after the rash has disappeared and this is called postherpetic neuralgia. This is nerve pain due to damage caused by the varicella zoster virus. The result is that the skin is very sensitive to the touch. However I’m not a doctor, and it’s beyond my ability and knowledge to give specific advice or diagnosis. If it is connected to shingles, you can try these Essential Oils for Treating Shingles (especially geranium oil which has been shown to be effective for postherpetic neuralgia), but I think it would also be a good idea to get a second opinion from a dermatologist regarding your condition.

    • Jason says:

      Michael – was the rash linear, or like a bulls-eye? How long did it last? Is it possible you were exposed to a tick bite?

      Did you get the two-tier Lyme Disease test, to include Western Blot?

      Dr Joseph Burrascano, lyme expert, links hyper-sensitive skin with Lyme disease.

  2. Melaine says:

    My right arm’s skin is sensitive to touch but also have a tingling kind of pain that I am aware of the whole time.My fingers also sometimes feel painful, but not so bad that I can not use them.
    Today my throat now also started to feel a tingling sensation today.

    Do not think it is fabromyalgia or any of the other conditions described above.

  3. RD says:

    Hi, I am somewhat concerned to a condition I have got. It all started last October when I experienced server pain in the left side of my next, I went through this condition for at least a week. A few weeks ago I started to get pain in my upper right arm also experiencing tingling in that arm, down to my fingers. Just recently I am experiencing discomfort to the touch and my clothes rubbing against my skin on my left side, this occurs from under my left arm down to my waist, covering area from my front left rib cage around to the centre of my back. I still experience some slight pain in my lower left side of my neck when I lean it over to the right. I have not been to my GP about this.

    • Jenny Hills, Medical Writer and Researcher says:

      Severe pain and arm tingling can be commonly caused by pinched nerve in the cervical spine, but there might be other conditions that can cause it. The fact that the pain subsided is good, but to be on the safe side of things I think it’s best to see your doctor.

  4. Chris says:

    Hi All,
    About six weeks ago I had elective surgeryto remove my gallbladder. After 2-weeks I was getting ready to return to work when I started experiencing visual problems (initially sore eyes & headaches and then increasingly reduced vision)after much complaining I was ‘pushed in’ to see the Drs in the Opthamology dept. at the local hospital. Clinically there appears to be no problem with my eyes/optic nerve and they don’t think I’ve had a TIA but am scheduled for an MRI scan this coming Saturday. Co-incidentally I started noticing sensitivity to the skin on my chest/stomache when in contact with clothing (seems to be triggered by contact with the hair). This has now persisted for about 3-weeks and has at times spread down into my legs and is currently affecting both my sides particualarly under the armpits. I have type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Not sure whats going on anymore?

  5. Arlando says:

    I have this extreme pain to from the slightest touch on my skin, next to my shin. I also have type 2 diabetes, bu have never experienced a pain like this, It’s the same pain whether I lightly brush against it, or if I press it. Fibromyalgia?? Or what….?

  6. Tami says:

    A few days ago i started experiencing skin sensitivity on my stomach. It has now spread to my back. Just the touch of my shirt or to wear a bra is painful. Im in good health and take vitamins religiously. I am also having throbbing pains in my leg muscles.I noticed this morning that my ankles feel like they are stove up and painful to move. I cant figure out what is going on. ANY advice is appreciated.

    • Genna says:

      Tami. Sounds like Fibromyalgia and /or RA?!? Go see your doc. I have both and I have almost the same symptoms you have.

  7. edward says:

    I am 71, exercise at least 5 days a week, eat well, non-smoker-never, couple of beers a week, take generic for flomax, mild blood pressure [not sure we have this properly balanced]. Blood sugar runs between 90 and 130. Probably still have gout but no longer taking anything [uloric] for it with no symptoms but still tests high. Right leg feels irritated constantly from foot through right side of but to right side of testicles, sensitive to almost any surface even some sheets. Seems improved to some degree in the AM and after exercise [running / biking] foot often feels wet but isn’t

    thoughts please

    • Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer says:

      Unfortunately I’m not a doctor and cannot give specific advice. The best things would be to go to your family doctor who knows your medical history and is able to refer you to do some tests is required and give you a professional diagnosis. I apologize I cannot be more helpful but I don’t want to do more harm than good.

  8. Louise says:

    I am 67. Suddenly my pulse area of my left arm is extremely sensitive, the skin is very painful to the touch. I removed my watch to prevent making the situation worse. There is no rash or redness. I do suffer from arthritis and did take a coarse of NSAIDS for 7 days, 3 td 40mg tabs with meals. I also have dermatitis, it flares up from time to time and the cream clears it quickly. I have not had a flare up for months. this skin pain is different. As a child I did have chicken pox, measels and mumps twice. I also have an enlarges tricuspid valve and get inflamation but I do treat it soonest. Hope someone is able to explain or guide me on what to do. Thanc, Louise

  9. Crystal says:

    I notice autism spectrum disorder is not mentioned. This can cause hypersensitive skin as well. Besides having autism spectrum disorder, level 1, I also have a hypersensitive nervous system. Crowding does it, loud sounds will do it, somebody walking by me and banging me in the back too many times will do it. These are all things that are triggers for me, that cause meltdowns. Weighted blankets can help, but because my budget is very tight I cannot afford them. The average for a 15 lb weighted blanket filled with glass beads is $200-250. Until i have at least $325 left over at the end of the month, I won’t be getting a weighted blanket. My priority is getting my budget back in balance.

  10. Sofie says:

    I’m 44, i’ve had an extremely sensitive sore to touch left forearm for two days. On the 4th day the pain subsided but now there is a yellowish bruise. I’ve had pain in this area before but nothing like this. I’ve had a painful left back of the shoulder from sleeping on a hard mattress, could this have exacerbated/contributed to the pain?

    • Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer says:

      Bruising is usually a result of trauma to soft tissue in the body. It’s hard to day what causes a bruise, as it can be caused by something less serious and common such as bumping into a hard object, or something more serious like in a car accident. Also some people bruise more easily than others, so it’s really hard to say what had caused the bruising and pain in your case, although it seems quite logical that sleeping on the affected side of the body on a hard mattress contributed to the pain. Try to sleep on the other side of the body and I believe that in a few days it will be much better. If you have any concerns and the situation doesn’t improve, go to see your doctor.

  11. Robert says:

    I have had the shingle vaccination five years ago and have very sensitive skin from the knees down to the ankles. This occurs only in winter months when I have a blanket on me during sleep and when wearing high winter socks. I eliminated wool blankets and socks and still have the problem. Cannot have a full nights sleep, have tried cortisone based creams but no relief. It lasts for about a week goes away and returns several days later. I use soaps that are not harsh when laundering and showering. I am a 79 year old male having this condition for several years. Dermatologist Rx Mometasone Furoate Ointment, helped for a month and right back to the original condition. Any suggestions?

    • Jenny Hills says:

      Hi Robert. I am very sorry to hear about your condition and I can imagine how disruptive it is to your daily life. I would go and get a second opinion from another dermatologist about your condition. As a side note, maybe you can try using essential oils to relieve pain. I’m not sure how helpful it can be but perhaps it’s worth a try. You can get the full information including how to use them in my article about The Top 20 Essential Oils to Relieve Pain and Inflammation.

    • Terry says:

      Hi Robert, I stumbled on this article, due to my symptoms that totally mimic your symptoms. I am 59 years old, and I would say that my original reaction happened after using an electric blanket a few years back. I used to wake up extremely warm, and my legs, knee down would have a red dot type of rash. The symptoms occur when I am wearing sox, that may be slightly tight, and at night time while sleeping. I stopped using the heated blanket after the reaction. and eventually the itchy rash would go away. I currently am dealing with this issue again, which usually comes during winter months. I hope you have found some relief. I believe that we have very similar symptoms. I have Used a scabies topical medication, and it has worked in the past. But not this time, ugh. I thought maybe it was some sort of mite infestation. Now I dont know what to think, after being to a dermatologist last year, and they diagnosed me with Purpura. Which is a condition when your capillaries break under your skin, and cause a bruised and pink looking rash. Anyhow, I doubt you are following this thread 3 years later. Let me know if you have ever got any diagnosis or cure? Terry, my email is [email protected] Hope you are well..

  12. Stacy says:

    For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been noticing that when I get up from the couch, the skin on both the top of my legs. Just the tops and no where else.
    Light touching doesn’t hurt but bending and straightening my legs cause my skin to tingle and hurt.
    If I pull off even a light weight blanket, it gives my the top of my legs some uncomfortable pain. It’s not excruciating but it’s uncomfortable. Rubbing on them with some pressure hurts, too.
    My colon ruptured in 1997, so other pains that happen all pale in comparison.
    The rupture caused sepsis, the sepsis caused a stroke, my lungs quit working, I was in a coma almost 5 days. I had 13 seizures as well. I just had one trauma after another. It snowballed.
    After 12 years, all the bad things went away. But, I had been on lots of dangerous meds. Especially Prednisone. I was on and off it a lot and 1 doctor prescribed me 80 mgs a day and to wean slowly. I really felt it was way too much.
    While taking them, the only side effects were weight gain and moon face. My bones are still in great shape.
    I was never told about the long term effects of the steroids. And, I firmly believe I’m experiencing them. My back and neck muscles are always inflamed. It’s been going on 3 years now. I take NSAIDS, Tramadols and Baclofen. It helps but I still hurt every day.
    Now, my skin has started hurting for a couple of weeks.
    I’m wondering if I’m suffering from the side effects from all those dangerous-sometimes fatal-meds.

  13. Denise says:

    My left flank area is where I has pain when I lightly touch the skin. It’s not constant. It’s been off and on for months. No rash whatsoever. I do have joint pain in my right knee, back, shoulder and hip. I walk 2 miles a day 5-6 days a week. My chiropractor popped my knuckles recently and my joints swelled with pain. For years my husband has called me a delicate little flower because of the times he felt that he barely bumped into me or brushed up against me caused enough pain for me to yell “ouch that really hurt”. At first I thought shingles due to the location, but never developed a rash. I’m wondering maybe lyme disease. Despite bug spray, I pick a lot of ticks off of myself every year. Especially the last 2 years. I guess rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and MS aren’t completely out of the picture. But, i think less likely. Any thoughts?

    • Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer says:

      It’s hard to know as there can be several reasons for it, and it’s impossible to diagnose over the internet. Best to visit your GP who knows your medical history and can send you to do some test if need.

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