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Most individuals with spinal cord injury report having some type of pain. Although some individuals do not seek treatment for pain, others seek treatment to improve overall quality of life and functional independence.

Important Notes
  • The onset of pain years after injury may indicate the onset of a rare medical condition, such as a syrinx. (Evaluate)
  • Pain is common above, at- or below-injury level regardless of sensory level.
  • Pain descriptors vary greatly from person to person, so it can be difficult to diagnose and treat.
Typically, a combination of treatments is most effective in pain control and management, as the elimination of pain is difficult and often unachievable. 

Treatment considerations are dependent on the pain classification and based on patient's reported symptoms
  • Nociceptive - originating from the skin, musculoskeletal system, or viscera that is made worse by movement, yet often improved by rest or change in position. It is commonly described as
    • dull;
    • aching; or
    • throbbing
  • Neuropathic - originating from the peripheral or central nervous systems are commonly described as
    • hot-burning;
    • tingling;
    • pins and needles;
    • sharp;
    • shooting;
    • painful cold;
    • electric shock; or
    • in some cases there can be hypersensitivity to light touch or pinprick (allodynia); usually not affected by movement.



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The University of Alabama at Birmingham Spinal Cord Injury Model System provides this website as an auxiliary resource for the primary care of patients with spinal cord injury.The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90SIMS0020). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this website do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.