It is common to have pain after a spinal cord injury (SCI). The amount and type of pain may be different for each person. Pain can interfere with day-to-day life, so if you have pain, it is important to discuss this with your SCI physician.
Neuropathic pain (or nerve pain) is the most common type of pain after SCI. It may be described as a burning, squeezing, aching, or tight pain. It may occur as a band around the level of the SCI, or it may affect the entire body below the level of the SCI. It is often the most difficult to treat, particularly when it occurs at the level of the injury.
There are a number of medications that can be used to treat nerve pain. In some cases, medication pumps are implanted to help control severe pain.
Musculoskeletal pain is caused by problems in the bones, muscles, ligaments, or tendons. It is common for persons with SCI to have musculoskeletal pain above the level of the injury. Musculoskeletal problems often arise from increased use of the neck or arms, and may progress over time as people get older. Common sites for musculoskeletal pain include the neck, back, and shoulders.
Usually a combination of medications, modalities, therapy, and equipment changes are used to treat musculoskeletal pain.
Visceral pain describes any pain which comes from the abdomen. Problems such as constipation, ulcers, gallbladder disease, or appendicitis may cause pain in the gastrointestinal tract. Visceral pain may present in many different forms, depending on the source of the pain.
It is important to remember that there can be many causes for pain. Some types of pain may be sudden or acute. Other forms of pain may be chronic. In either case, it is important to remember that the management plan varies from one person to the next.
If you have any problems with pain, it is important to be evaluated by your SCI physician. In some cases, it may be recommended that you see a pain management specialist in order to get the best control of your pain.
As part of the largest rehabilitation network in western Pennsylvania, the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers specialized inpatient and transitional care for a variety of conditions, including: