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How a Spinal Cord Injury Leads to Chronic Pain

By Grant Law Office on September 10, 2021

Spinal cord injury (SCI) can be complete or incomplete. With complete SCI, there is no sensation or motor function below the level of the injury. With incomplete SCI, some sensation and function remain in varying degrees, depending on the severity of the injury. In either case, spinal cord injury can lead to chronic pain.

How Many Spinal Cord Injury Victims Suffer Chronic Pain?

For most people who sustain spinal cord injury, pain is a major, long-term problem. It can occur in areas that still have normal sensation and in areas where there is little or no sensation after SCI. Many SCI victims suffer chronic pain that can come and go but continues for months or years. Chronic pain in people with spinal cord injury can be challenging to manage and significantly affect their quality of life.

What Types of Pain Do SCI Victims Experience?

Chronic pain after spinal cord injury is often related to nerve damage or musculoskeletal issues that arise from it. People with SCI can experience several types of pain in various parts of the body, including areas where no normal sensation remains because of the injury. The types of pain a person with spinal cord injury may suffer include:

  • Musculoskeletal pain: Pain in the bones, joints, and muscles can be caused by overuse, injury, arthritis, or wear and tear. This type of pain can be caused by wheelchair use and from transfers into and out of a chair. Musculoskeletal pain in people with SCI often affects the shoulders, elbows, and hands from the pressure of pushing a wheelchair or performing transfers. It is also common for paraplegic individuals who have had surgery to fuse the spine to develop back and neck pain from increased motion above and below the fusion.
  • Visceral pain: Cramping or a dull ache in the abdomen can be caused by medical problems often associated with spinal cord injury. These may include kidney stones, ulcers, gallstones, appendicitis, or constipation. A person with spinal cord injury may not experience the usual symptoms associated with these conditions. Pain caused by a visceral problem may be felt in a different area than the source of the pain.
  • Neuropathy: Neuropathic pain involves the brain and the nerves that were damaged with the spinal cord injury. It is caused by abnormal communication between the brain and the damaged nerves when the brain amplifies the intensity of signals from the area of the injury. SCI victims may experience debilitating pain in areas of the body that otherwise have no sensation. Neuropathic pain can vary from one person to the next. It has been described as burning, stringing, or stabbing pain.

What Are the Treatments for Chronic Pain After Spinal Cord Injury?

Each SCI victim with chronic pain should have an individually-tailored treatment program. Pain management may involve medications, therapy, and other treatments. Options may include:

  • Modifying activities to reduce musculoskeletal pain
  • Physical therapy, including stretching and range of motion exercises
  • Therapeutic massage to help relieve pain associated with muscle problems
  • Acupuncture for musculoskeletal pain
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This method uses electrodes on the skin’s surface to deliver a low-level electrical current to the body to block signals from areas of nerve damage.

At Grant Law Office, we have been providing exceptional legal representation to injury victims in Georgia for more than 30 years. Our husband and wife team of Atlanta personal injury lawyers takes a thorough approach to our cases, with strategic thought and planning. If you or your loved one has suffered spinal cord injury through someone else’s negligence, call us to schedule a free consultation at (404) 995-3955.

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Posted in: Spinal Cord Injury

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