Objective: To provide an overview of our current understanding of the problem of neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury (SCI) and to suggest possible therapeutic options in the near future.
Methods: Original research articles, reviews and book chapters on the subject of pain and SCI.
Results: Neuropathic pain following SCI has presented a challenge not only for traditional concepts of how pain occurs but also for more recent conceptualizations. We have made substantial progress in identifying the common types of pain that occur following SCI, determining the prevalence and characteristics of pain, investigating some of the pathophysiological changes in the nervous system that may contribute to the presence of neuropathic SCI pain and examining the effectiveness of some treatments. However major challenges remain. We still need to reach consensus on an SCI pain taxonomy; our understanding of mechanisms and the relative contribution of changes in the periphery, spinal cord and brain is incompletely understood; there are few studies that indicate effective treatment options, particularly for neuropathic SCI pain; and treatment of the biological and psychological contributors to pain is often fragmented.
Conclusion: Recent studies suggest the potential usefulness of new treatment approaches such as selective pharmacological agents, application of novel neurostimulation techniques and the use of cognitive approaches to modify the pain experience. Our increasing understanding of the problem combined with the promise of these new approaches offers hope for improved management of neuropathic pain following SCI in the near future.