Inflammatory stress effects on health and function after spinal cord injury

Crystal M. Noller, Suzanne L. Groah, Mark S. Nash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Injury to the spinal cord produces immediate, adaptive inflammatory responses that can exacerbate the initial injury and lead to secondary damage. Thus far, researchers and clinicians have focused on modulating acute inflammation to preserve sensorimotor function. However, this singular approach risks overlooking how chronic inflammation negatively impacts the broader health of persons with a spinal cord injury (SCI). Objective: The aim of this monograph was to discuss interrelated processes causing persistent inflammatory stress after SCI, along with associated health risks. We review archetypal factors that contribute to a chronic inflammatory state, including response to injury, acute infection, and autonomic dysreflexia. Secondary complications producing and exacerbating inflammation are also discussed, including pain, depression, obesity, and injury to the integumentary and skeletal systems. Finally, we discuss the role of bacteria and the gut microbiome in this process and then conclude with a discussion on how a pro-inflammatory phenotype promotes an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease after injury. Conclusions: Effectively managing chronic inflammation should be a high priority for clinicians and researchers who seek to improve the health and life quality of persons with SCI. Chronic inflammation worsens secondary medical complications and amplifies the risk for cardiometabolic disorders after injury, directly impacting both the quality of life and mortality risk after SCI. Inflammation can worsen pain and depression and even hinder neurological recovery. It is, therefore, imperative that countermeasures to chronic inflammation are routinely considered from the point of initial injury and proceeding throughout the lifespan of the individual with SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-217
Number of pages11
JournalTopics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Cardiometabolic Disorders
  • Chronic Inflammation
  • Inflammatory Stress
  • Spinal Cord Injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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