Barriers and Facilitators to Optimal Neuropathic Pain Management: SCI Consumer, Significant Other, and Health Care Provider Perspectives

Eva Widerstrom-Noga, Kim D. Anderson, Salome Perez, Alberto Martinez-Arizala, Lindsey Calle-Coule, Loriann Fleming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective. Persistent neuropathic pain is a common and often severe consequence of spinal cord injury (SCI). There is a critical need to better understand how to overcome barriers and promote facilitators to optimal pain management. The present study was designed to identify, from the perspectives of persons living with SCI, their significant others, and SCI health care professionals, the barriers and facilitators to optimal pain management for intense neuropathic pain. Design. Qualitative interviews. Setting. University laboratory. Subjects. People with SCI who had experienced intense neuropathic pain for a minimum of a year (N = 15), their significant others (N = 15), and SCI health care providers (N = 15). Methods. Qualitative interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed based on grounded theory using ATLAS.ti software. Results. Inadequate access to care, information, or pain management expertise were frequently perceived barriers to optimal pain management across all three groups. Another major barrier was SCI stakeholders’ concerns regarding the risks of adverse effects and addiction to pain medication. Facilitators included having a better understanding of pain and available treatment options, effective patient–provider communication, resilience, and access to nonpharmacological treatment options. Conclusions. Managing intense neuropathic pain poses significant challenges after SCI. SCI stakeholders felt that accessible treatment options were limited and primarily focused on pain medications with minimal benefit but with significant risks for addiction and adverse effects. Actionable facilitators to optimal pain management after SCI include education regarding neuropathic pain and treatment options for all stakeholders, better communication regarding neuropathic pain among stakeholders, and improved patient access to nonpharmacological treatment options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2913-2924
Number of pages12
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Barriers
  • Facilitators
  • Neuropathic Pain
  • Pain Management
  • Persistent Pain
  • Psychosocial Factors
  • Qualitative Interview
  • Spinal Cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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