Pain can be an issue for people with spinal cord injuries and it’s an area of care that needs proper management. It can affect the individual in locations where sensation has been reduced (or even lost completely) as a result of the damage to the spinal cord, as well as parts of the body that have not been directly impacted by the injury.
Pain for those with a spinal cord injury (SCI) can be chronic and it can impact the individual’s ability to carry out daily activities, affecting both their physical and mental health.
Here we take a closer look at the different kinds of pain that may be experienced following an injury to the spinal cord and how it can be managed effectively in the short and long-term. The good news is that there are many different treatments and approaches available nowadays.
Pain will vary from individual to individual and will be dependent on the severity and level of the spinal cord injury that has been sustained.
The brain send signals to other parts of the body via the spinal cord, allowing movements to be made. This biological system, the nervous system, also transmits messages to the brain related to how pain is felt. Neuropathic or neurogenic pain is where the nerves send misleading messages to the brain – suggesting that the individual is experiencing pain when they are actually not.
Those with spinal cord injury pain may experience stabbing, burning or tingling sensations and the severity and location can vary a great deal from person to person.
Musculoskeletal pain comes from real injuries and strains that occur to areas like the muscles, joints and bones. Someone with a spinal cord injury, for example, may suffer from pain in the shoulders or neck after using a manual wheelchair and overstraining themselves.
People with paraplegia and tetraplegia may often experience back and neck pain. If someone regularly suffers from spasticity (where muscles contract suddenly), then this can cause pain in the area affected because of the pressure put on the muscles.
Visceral pain may also occur. This can be complicated to diagnose as the pain can happen because of a problem elsewhere in the body. For example, gall bladder issues can cause shoulder pain.
Pain after a spinal cord injury should be managed carefully and this can take a number of different forms. It usually involves assessing the individual and coming up with a personal pain management solution that fits their own specific needs.
Managing pain is a very personal thing. Tips for keeping control and reducing the impact of spinal cord injury pain include:
Unfortunately, chronic pain in spinal cord injuries is a common symptom and one that should be managed effectively. The good news is that there are plenty of different approaches to alleviating chronic pain but finding what works for the individual is important.
Spinal Cord Injury Range of Motion Exercises
How to Make a Home More Wheelchair Accessible
Useful Online SCI Communities You May Have Missed
Spinal Cord Injury Fatigue
Spinal Cord Injury and Pregnancy
Urinary Tract Infections Following a Spinal Cord Injury
The Risk of Pneumonia Following a Spinal Cord Injury
What is a Spinal Laminectomy?