Exacerbation of chronic pain following spinal cord injury

Eva G. Widerström-Noga, Dennis C. Turk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Because of the high prevalence and the refractory nature of pain following spinal cord injury (SCI), it is important to increase the understanding of what factors aggravate different types of pain. This information is related to pain generating mechanisms and may thus be useful in the diagnosis and management of these difficult pain conditions. The aims of the present study were to (1) identify variables (factors) that exacerbate chronic pain associated with SCI and (2) define the relationships among these patterns of pain exacerbation, specific pain characteristics, and psychological features. A sample out of 159 (75.5%) people with SCI and chronic pain, volunteered to participate in a mail survey. Over 50% of the sample indicated that prolonged sitting, infections, fatigue, muscle spasms, cold weather, and sudden movements exacerbated their pain. A principal components analysis detected five sets of factors that were reported to magnify pain: negative mood, prolonged afferent activity (bowel, bladder, somatic), weather, voluntary physical activity, and transient somatic afferent activity. Negative mood and prolonged afferent activity were frequently and significantly associated with both pain characteristics and psychosocial issues. A multiple regression analysis revealed that a combination of decreased activity levels due to pain (t = 3.54; p < 0.001), pain located in the frontal aspects of torso (including genitals) (t = 2.29; p < 0.05), "burning" (t = 2.26; p < 0.05), or "electric" (t = 2.09; p < 0.05) pain, and a limited perception of life control (t = -2.16; p < 0.05) was significantly associated with a high extent of pain aggravation (R2 = 0.39; p < 0.000).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1384-1395
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • Allodynia
  • Exacerbation
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Multidimensional Pain Inventory
  • Neuropathic pain
  • SCI
  • Visceral pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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