Treatments that are perceived to be helpful for non-neuropathic pain after traumatic spinal cord injury: a multicenter cross-sectional survey

Chung Ying Tsai, Thomas N. Bryce, Andrew D. Delgado, Sara Mulroy, Bria Maclntyre, Susan Charlifue, Elizabeth R. Felix

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study design: Cross-sectional survey. Objectives: The objective of the study was to identify the treatments that people with traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) used for their non-neuropathic pains (nonNeuPs) and how they subjectively rated the helpfulness of those treatments. Setting: Six centers from the Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems. Methods: Three hundred ninety one individuals who were at least 1-year post-traumatic SCI were enrolled. A telephone survey was conducted for pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments utilized in the last 12 months for each participant’s three worst pains and the perceived helpfulness of each treatment for each pain. Results: One hundred ninety (49%) participants reported at least one nonNeuP (Spinal Cord Injury Pain Instrument score < 2) in the previous 7 days. NSAIDs/aspirin, acetaminophen, opioids, and cannabinoids were the most commonly used and helpful pharmacologic treatments for overall nonNeuP locations (helpful in 77–89% of treated pains). Body position adjustment, passive exercise, massage, resistive exercise, and heat therapy were reported as the most commonly used non-pharmacological treatments for nonNeuPs. Heat therapy, aerobic exercise, massage, and body position adjustment were the most helpful non-pharmacological treatments for overall nonNeuP locations (helpful in 71–80% of treated pains). Perceived helpfulness of treatments varied by pain locations, which may be due to different mechanisms underlying pains in different locations. Conclusions: Results of the study may help guide clinicians in selecting pain-specific treatments for nonNeuPs. The self-reported helpfulness of heat therapy, exercise, and massage suggests a possible direction for clinical trials investigating these treatments of nonNeuP while limiting the side effects accompanying pharmacologic treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-528
Number of pages9
JournalSpinal Cord
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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