Background/objective: Few studies have examined the prevalence of visceral pain in persons with spinal cord injury (SCI), and virtually no studies have looked at the relationship between visceral pain and self-reported quality of life. We examined the frequency of reported visceral pain at 5, 10, and 15 years after injury to determine whether the presence of visceral pain is related to quality of life, and to determine to what extent visceral pain should be of concern to clinicians treating patients with SCI.
Methods: Visceral pain and quality of life in persons with SCI were compared from a combined Craig Hospital and National Model SCI Systems database at 5 (N = 33), 10 (N = 132), and 15 (N = 96) years after injury.
Results: The rates of visceral pain increased at each measurement (10% at year 5, 22% at year 10, and 32% at year 15); although these numbers reflect cross-sectional data, they do show a clear statistical change. Only a limited true longitudinal sample was available, but at 10 years after injury, individuals who had reported visceral pain at any time reported a significantly lower quality of life than those never experiencing visceral pain, F1,188 = 3.95, P < 0.05.
Conclusions: Although visceral pain may not be as prevalent as the more researched neuropathic and musculoskeletal subtypes of pain, it may account for a higher percentage of people with SCI who report pain than previously recognized. More quantitative and longitudinal research is needed to examine the relationship of visceral pain with overall quality of life and to pursue interventions.