Prevalence and Impact of Neuropathic and Nonneuropathic Pain in Chronic Spinal Cord Injury

Elizabeth R. Felix, Diana D. Cardenas, Thomas N. Bryce, Susan Charlifue, Tae Kyong Lee, Bria MacIntyre, Sara Mulroy, Heather Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To compare prevalence, intensity ratings, and interference ratings of neuropathic pain (NeuP) and nociceptive pain in people with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) Design: Cross-sectional survey. Setting: Six SCI Model System centers in the United States. Participants: Convenience sample of 391 individuals (N=391) with traumatic SCI, 18 years or older, 81% male, 57% White. Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: Survey based on the International Spinal Cord Injury Pain Basic Data Set and the Spinal Cord Injury Pain Instrument, including 0-10 numeric ratings of pain intensity and pain interference with daily activities, mood, and sleep Results: A total of 80% of those surveyed reported having at least 1 pain problem; 58% reported 2 or more pain problems; 56% had probable NeuP; and 49% had non-NeuP. When comparing ratings for all pains (n=354 for NeuP, n=290 for non-NeuP) across participants, probable NeuPs were significantly more intense (6.9 vs 5.7) and interfered more with activities (5.2 vs 3.7), mood (4.9 vs 3.2), and sleep (5.4 vs 3.6) than non-NeuPs (all P<.001). However, when comparing ratings for probable NeuPs and non-NeuPs within participants, for the subgroup of 94 participants with both pain types, only ratings for sleep interference were found to be significantly different between the pain types. Additionally, we found significantly greater prevalence of NeuP and non-NeuP for women compared with men and of NeuP for those with paraplegia compared with those with tetraplegia. Conclusions: Independent assessment of the pain conditions experienced by an individual with SCI is useful in understanding the differential effect that pain type has on quality of life. This is particularly important regarding sleep interference and should be kept in mind when determining treatment strategies for meeting patient-centered outcome goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Chronic pain
  • Neuralgia
  • Nociceptive pain
  • Pain
  • Rehabilitation
  • Sleep
  • Spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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