Chronic pain after spinal injury: Interference with sleep and daily activities

Eva G. Widerstrom-Noga, Ernesto Felipe-Cuervo, Robert P. Yezierski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations


Objectives: To determine how chronic pain after spinal cord injury (SCI) interfered with sleep, exercise, work, household chores, and other daily activities and to define which clinical aspects of pain and psychosocial factors best predicted the extent of interference. Design: Postal survey; follow-up to a previous survey conducted 6 months earlier. Setting: General community. Participants: Individuals (n = 217) with traumatic SCI and chronic pain. Intervention: Subjects answered questions regarding frequency of interference caused by pain on 5 activities: sleep, work, exercise, household chores, and other daily activities. Asked to self-report sadness, fatigue, or anxiety; and to describe location, quality, and intensity of pain. Main Outcome Measures: Demographic data (gender, age, level of injury); sociodemographic data (education, employment); self-reported psychosocial outlook; clinical characteristics of pain: location (drawing), quality (descriptors), and intensity (2 numeric rating scales). Regression analysis. Results: The questionnaire was returned by 65.8% of the sample (217/330). A large number of the participants (77.3%) reported frequent interference caused by pain, ie, "often" to "always" in 1 or more of the 5 activities. The combination of high pain intensity and the use of multiple pain descriptors was significantly associated with frequent interference with falling asleep. Frequent sleep interruption was significantly associated with high pain intensity, male gender, anxiety, and higher age at time of injury. In working individuals, frequent interference due to pain was significantly associated with multiple pain descriptors, anxiety, low level of education, and being older at time of injury. Conclusion: Reported extent of pain interference in various areas of activity is related to clinical symptoms of pain as well as to psychologic and psychosocial factors rather than level of injury. The relationship between frequent interference, pain intensity, and multiple descriptors indicate that individuals experiencing several types of pain of high intensity are more likely than others to experience frequent interference with a variety of daily activities including sleep.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1571-1577
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2001


  • Activities of daily living
  • Gender
  • Pain measurement
  • Pain, intractable
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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