Chronic pain in individuals with spinal cord injury: a survey and longitudinal study

Spinal Cord. 2005 Dec;43(12):704-12. doi: 10.1038/


Study design: Cross-sectional and longitudinal postal survey.

Objectives: To (1) compare the severity of pain in persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) to national norms, (2) examine the association between pain and measures of (a) psychological functioning, (b) community integration and (c) pain interference with daily activities, and (3) examine the change in the prevalence and intensity of pain over time.

Setting: Community.

Methods: A total of 147 adults with SCI were surveyed twice, 2-6 years apart. Main outcome measures included presence/absence of pain in general and at specific body sites, 0-10 numerical rating scale of average pain intensity, modified Brief Pain Inventory Pain Interference scale, SF-36 Bodily Pain scale, SF-36 Mental Health scale, Community Integration Questionnaire.

Results: Pain was more severe, on average, in this sample of patients with SCI than it is in normative samples. The presence of pain was associated with trends towards poorer psychological functioning and social integration, and the intensity of pain was associated with interference with a number of important basic activities of daily living. Little systematic change was found in pain over a 2-6-year-period, although there was evidence that the prevalence of shoulder pain increases over time.

Conclusion: The current findings underscore the serious nature of pain in persons with SCI and provide additional support for the need to identify effective treatments for SCI-related pain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Educational Status
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Washington / epidemiology