Both areas of the body that maintained normal sensation as well as those that lost sensation after a spinal cord injury (SCI) can be affected by chronic pain after an injury. Depending on the person, this pain can range from manageable to a point where the person is no longer able to carry out daily living activities. Whether you are experiencing pain in an area with or without sensation, this pain is real. Understanding the type of pain you are experiencing may help you, your caregivers, and healthcare team better determine how to treat and manage it.
Of course, if you experience any new or worsening pain, you should always consult your physician immediately.
An aching, cramping, dull pain located in the abdomen is considered visceral pain. Typically, medical issues like appendicitis, bowel problems, gall and kidney stones, and ulcers cause this type of pain. However, the symptoms associated with these medical issues may not be experienced by someone with an SCI. Pain stemming from a visceral-related medical issue may be felt in the form of referred pain such as pain from an ulcer being felt in the shoulder.
Pain caused by issues in the bones, joints, or muscles is referred to as musculoskeletal pain. While this type of pain is commonly felt by all as they age, it can be even more troublesome for those with an SCI. Injury, overuse, and general wear and tear of the joints from wheelchair use and transfers can cause musculoskeletal pain.
After an SCI, there are three main areas where you may experience this type of pain:
- Back and Neck – If you had surgery after your injury to fuse your spine, an increase in motion either above or below the fusion point can result in discomfort. Those who use a sip-n-puff operated chair may also experience pain in these areas.
- Muscle Spasms – Spasticity may cause joint and muscle strain and create this type of pain.
- Upper Limbs – Propelling a wheelchair, pressure relief activities, and transfers can result in upper limb pain. The location of this pain may also be felt by those with higher level injuries that use joysticks and computers to perform different activities throughout the day.
Abnormal communication between the brain and the nerves damaged as a result of your spinal cord injury can cause neuropathic pain. The nerve signals that are attempting to tell your brain how they feel are misunderstood in neuropathic pain. This triggers the brain to amplify these signals, causing pain in areas of your body below where you have feeling. This pain is often described as a tingling, stabbing, or burning pain.
Source: sci.washington.edu Accessed: 6/19/17