Pain Management

Pain Management

There are various options to help you manage your level of pain.

Identify the cause

Pain after a spinal cord injury is very common.

Pain after spinal cord injury is a very common and pervasive problem that can interfere significantly with function and independence in everyday living, as well as participation in life. Often the pain is related to the nerve damage from the injury or musculoskeletal problems that arise from living with a SCI.

By identifying the cause of the pain, there are various treatment options available to help you manage it, such as a combination of exercise, medication, stress reduction or alternative treatments, such as acupuncture. With new discoveries in pain management being made every day, there is a lot of hope for additional treatment options in the future.

Types of pain

  • Musculoskeletal pain can be experienced in the early period of injury due to damage to bones and joints or due to surgery. For some people, these pains may settle down in the three to six months following their injury. Many people develop chronic musculoskeletal pain in the arms and shoulders over time because of the increased demands from sitting in and using a wheelchair and from lifting the body using the arms during transfers or if leaning heavily on a crutch. Muscle spasms can also contribute to pain.
  • Visceral pain is located in the abdomen (stomach and digestive area) and is often described as cramping and or dull and aching. It can be caused by a medical problem such as constipation, a kidney stone, ulcer, gall stone, or appendicitis.

  • Neuropathic (nerve) pain occurs commonly in people with spinal cord injury and is generally characterised by sharp, electric, shooting and burning sensations. Some people experience acute neuropathic pain either immediately or very soon after injury. Sometimes the pain will settle down by itself but if the pain is present for more than six months, it is likely that it won’t settle down and instead continues as chronic pain. In some cases, neuropathic pain starts months or even years following injury.
  • Treatment

    Choose what is right for you.

    Since pain can have so many different causes, there is no single way to treat it. It is important that you speak to your GP or specialist to seek the right diagnosis. Treatment may involve a combination of drugs, therapy, and other treatments, including behavioural psychological treatments.

    Further information

    There is a wealth of information about understanding pain and the various treatment options available. Visit SCIA Resource Library – Pain Management, to read articles, publications and more.