Living With Chronic Pain After Spinal Cord Injury: A Mixed-Methods Study

Eva Widerström-Noga, Kimberly D. Anderson, Salomé Perez, Judith P. Hunter, Alberto Martinez-Arizala, James P. Adcock, Maydelis Escalona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective To identify the relative importance of positive (facilitators) and negative (barriers) contributors to living with chronic pain after spinal cord injury (SCI). Design Mixed-methods: (1) Qualitative (n=35): individual, semistructured, open-ended interviews identifying facilitator/barrier themes; (2) Quantitative (n=491): converting the most common themes into statements and quantifying agreement with these in an online survey to determine relative importance, underlying dimensions, and their associations with perceived difficulty in dealing with pain. Setting University-based research setting and general community. Participants Volunteers (N=526) with SCI experiencing moderate to severe chronic pain. Interventions Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures Interview guides, facilitator/barrier statements, and pain inventories. Results Exploratory factor analyses reduced agreement ratings into 4 facilitators (information regarding pain and treatments, resilience, coping, medication use) and 5 barriers (poor health care communication, pain impact and limitations, poor communication about pain, difficult nature of pain, treatment concerns). Greater “pain impact and limitations,” “difficult nature of pain,” “poor communication from provider,” lower “resilience,” greater “medication use,” and younger age predicted greater difficulty in dealing with pain (r=.75; F=69.02; P<.001). Conclusions This study revealed multiple facilitators and barriers to living with chronic pain after SCI. The principal barrier, “poor health care communication,” indicated that consumers do not receive adequate information from their health care providers regarding pain. “Information regarding pain and treatments” had greater agreement scores and factor loadings than all other facilitators, indicating that most participants view provider-patient communication and educational efforts regarding pain and pain management as priorities and critical needs. Further initiatives in these areas are important for improving pain management post-SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)856-865
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017


  • Chronic pain
  • Qualitative research
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Surveys and questionnaires

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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