Pain after Spinal Cord Injury: A Review of Classification, Treatment Approaches, and Treatment Assessment

Diana D. Cardenas, Elizabeth R. Felix

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Pain is a prevalent consequence of spinal cord injury (SCI) that can persist for years after the injury and can have a significant impact on physical and emotional function and quality of life. There are a variety of types of pain that may develop after a SCI, including those of primarily nociceptive origin and those of primarily neuropathic origin. Recommendations for diagnostic and treatment strategies have been varied in part because of the lack of a universal classification system and in part because of the biopsychosocial nature of pain. The most recent taxonomy for pain after SCI is described herein. Pain-management strategies, including pharmacological, interventional, and psychological treatments, also are described. For neuropathic pain in SCI, anticonvulsant agents and tricyclic antidepressants often are tried, but these treatments have had limited success in many patients, and alternative interventions (eg, massage therapy, acupuncture, meditation) often are just as successful. Treatment of nociceptive pain after SCI often includes nonsteroidal antiinflammatory agents and acetaminophen, but correction of underlying etiologies and behavior adjustments also should be implemented if possible. An overview of self-report pain questionnaires and scales is also presented to provide the clinician and researcher with a set of tools to evaluate the efficacy of pain interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1077-1090
Number of pages14
JournalPM and R
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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