A primary care provider's guide to pain after spinal cord injury: Screening and management

Jithin Varghese, Kimberly D Anderson, Eva Widerström-Noga, Upender Mehan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) often experience chronic pain as a secondary complication. It can significantly impair mental health, sleep, mood, and overall quality of life. It is important for providers within a primary care setting to recognize the different types of pain such as nociceptive and neuropathic. Various assessment tools are available to guide proper classification and subsequent management. Providers need to have a good knowledge base, structure, and patient focus when managing care. Nonpharmacological interventions are just as important and should be explored prior to or along with pharmacological interventions. Treatment modalities such as physical therapy, exercise, acupuncture, and cognitive behavioral therapy should be tailored to the individual to the greatest extent possible. Gabapentin, pregabalin, and amitriptyline have been studied extensively and are the first-line pharmacological agents for neuropathic pain. It is important to involve patients as equal stakeholders in any pain intervention with adequate lifelong follow-up. The aim of this article is to offer an overview of pain assessment, information, patient interaction, and treatment options available. Although chronic pain has remained difficult to treat successfully, primary care providers can play an integral role in delivering evidence-based and patient-centered care for managing chronic pain among individuals with SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-143
Number of pages11
JournalTopics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Chronic pain
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Primary care
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Neurology


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