Types and effectiveness of treatments used by people with chronic pain associated with spinal cord injuries: Influence of pain and psychosocial characteristics

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115 Scopus citations


Study design: Postal survey. Objectives: Because of the high prevalence and inadequate control of pain following spinal cord injury (SCI), it is important to have information about the factors associated with the use of specific pain therapies. We conducted this study to evaluate the ability of pain characteristics and psychosocial factors to predict the use of treatments. Setting: The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis (Miami, FL, USA). Methods: People with SCI (n =120) were mailed a packet containing a questionnaire with questions regarding demographic factors, pain characteristics, and pain treatments along with a copy of the Multidimensional Pain Inventory. Results: A total of 59% of the respondents had been prescribed treatment or self-initiated efforts to treat pain over the previous 18-month period. The most common treatments used by this sample were massage (26.6%), opioids (22.5%) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (20%). The most effective treatments overall were 'physical therapies' with 50% receiving these treatments indicating that their pain was 'considerably reduced' or that they were 'pain free.' Opioids and anticonvulsants were perceived to be the most effective pharmacological agents prescribed (33.3 and 23.8% reporting their pain was considerably better or eliminated, respectively). People using prescription medication reported significantly greater pain severity, more widespread pain, more descriptive adjectives, more evoked pain, greater difficulty in dealing with pain, and more interference and decreased activity levels due to pain, compared to people not using prescription medication. A combination of greater difficulty in dealing with pain, intense pain, presence of evoked pain, and higher level of perceived support from significant others was predictive of taking prescription medication. Conclusion: People taking prescription medication reported significantly more intense pain with neuropathic characteristics that significantly affected daily life and routine activities. A substantial percentage of individuals with pain related to SCI did not obtain significant pain relief from prescription medications. None of the factors assessed predicted the use of nonprescription treatments. The results of this study confirm the inadequacy of available modalities to manage chronic pain related to SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)600-609
Number of pages10
JournalSpinal Cord
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Nonpharmacological treatment
  • Opioids
  • Prediction
  • Self-management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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