Treatments for chronic pain in persons with spinal cord injury: A survey study

Diana D. Cardenas, Mark P. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Background/Objective: To determine the degree and duration of pain relief provided by specific pain treatments used by individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) who have chronic pain. Design: Postal survey. Setting: Community. Participants: Participants were 117 individuals who had traumatic SCI, were 18 years of age or older, and reported a chronic pain problem. Main Outcome Measures: Questions assessing current or past use of 26 different pain treatments, the amount of relief each treatment provided, and the length of time that any pain relief usually lasts. Results: The medications tried most often were nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (tried by 71%) and acetaminophen (tried by 70%); these medications were still being used by more than one half of the patients who had tried them. Opioids produced the greatest degree of pain relief on average (mean 6.27 ± 3.05 [SD] on a 0-10 scale, with 0 = no relief and 10 = complete relief) but were unlikely to be continued by those who tried them. Although 38% of respondents with pain had tried gabapentin, only 17% were still using it, and average pain relief was only moderate (mean, 3.32 ± 3.03 on the 0-10 relief scale). Seventy-three percent of the respondents had tried at least 1 of 7 alternative pain treatments, and the most frequently tried were massage, marijuana, and acupuncture. The most relief was provided by massage (mean, 6.05 ± 2.47] on the 0-10 relief scale) and marijuana (mean, 6.62 ± 2.54 on the 0-10 relief scale). The relief from the various treatments, including most medications, tended to last only minutes or hours; however, pain relief from alternative treatments such as massage, acupuncture, and hypnosis was reported to last for days in 25% to 33% of those who tried these treatments. Conclusions: Many patients are not finding adequate pain relief from commonly prescribed medications. Alternative therapies should be considered as additional treatment options in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-117
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Acupuncture
  • Alternative therapy
  • Analgesia
  • Chronic
  • Gabapentin
  • Massage
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Neuropathic
  • Pain
  • Spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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