Upper extremity musculoskeletal pain during and after rehabilitation in wheelchair-using persons with a spinal cord injury

Spinal Cord. 2006 Mar;44(3):152-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.sc.3101826.


Study design: Prospective cohort study.

Objectives: To study upper extremity musculoskeletal pain during and after rehabilitation in wheelchair-using subjects with a spinal cord injury (SCI) and its relation with lesion characteristics, muscle strength and functional outcome.

Setting: Eight rehabilitation centers with an SCI unit in the Netherlands.

Methods: Using a questionnaire, number, frequency and seriousness of musculoskeletal pain complaints of the upper extremity were measured. A pain score for the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints was calculated by multiplying the seriousness by the frequency of pain complaints. An overall score was obtained by adding the scores of the three joints of both upper extremities. Muscle strength was determined by manual muscle testing. The motor score of the functional independence measure provided a functional outcome. All outcomes were obtained at four test occasions during and 1 year after rehabilitation.

Results: Upper extremity pain and shoulder pain decreased over time (30%) during the latter part of in-patient rehabilitation (P<0.001). Subjects with tetraplegia (TP) showed more musculoskeletal pain than subjects with paraplegia (PP) (P<0.001). Upper extremity pain and shoulder pain were significantly inversely related to functional outcome (P<0.001). Muscle strength was significantly inversely related to shoulder pain (P<0.001). Musculoskeletal pain at the beginning of rehabilitation and BMI were strong predictors for pain 1 year after in-patient rehabilitation (P<0.001).

Conclusions: Subjects with TP are at a higher risk for upper extremity musculoskeletal pain and for shoulder pain than subjects with PP. Higher muscle strength and higher functional outcome are related to fewer upper extremity complaints.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / classification
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / epidemiology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Upper Extremity / physiopathology*
  • Wheelchairs*