Chronic pain associated with spinal cord injuries: a community survey

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2001 Apr;82(4):501-9. doi: 10.1053/apmr.2001.21855.


Objective: To investigate, in a community sample of people with spinal cord injuries (SCIs), chronic pain prevalence, associated factors, sites, characteristics, interference with daily functioning, treatments received, and treatment helpfulness.

Design: Postal survey.

Setting: Community.

Participants: Three hundred eighty-four individuals aged over 17 years with SCIs.

Main outcome measures: Chronic Pain Grade questionnaire, Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire, pain sites, and treatments.

Results: Current pain was reported by 79% of respondents and was significantly more common in less highly educated persons, and individuals not employed or in school. Most common locations of current pain were the back (61%), hips and buttocks (61%), and legs and feet (58%). Upper extremity pain was experienced by 76% after the injury and by 69% currently. Individuals with tetraplegia were significantly more likely to have neck and shoulder pain than were those with paraplegia. On average, respondents reported a high level of pain intensity and a moderate level of pain interference with activities, and rated treatments received for pain as being only somewhat helpful.

Conclusion: Most individuals with SCI experience chronic pain that is refractory to medical treatment. Further research is needed to delineate the causes of, and optimal treatments for, the various pain problems in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Intractable / epidemiology
  • Pain, Intractable / etiology*
  • Pain, Intractable / therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires