Fatigue and tiredness in people with spinal cord injury

J Psychosom Res. 2012 Sep;73(3):205-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2012.07.005. Epub 2012 Jul 25.


Objective: Fatigue is a common symptom in people with neurological injury such as spinal cord injury (SCI), though its nature and occurrence in people with SCI are not well understood. The objective of this research was to investigate fatigue and its relationship to factors such as mood states and self efficacy in adult people with SCI compared to able-bodied controls.

Methods: Participants included 41 adults with SCI living in the community and 41 able-bodied controls matched for age and sex ratios and education. All participants first completed a comprehensive psychological assessment and were then asked to take part in a 2-3 hour session composed of a regimen of cognitive tasks that required constant concentration and attention. Participants were assessed after completing this task.

Results: The SCI group was found to have significantly elevated levels of fatigue, as well as elevated depressive mood, anxiety and poor self-efficacy. The SCI group was also found to suffer excessive levels of tiredness as a consequence of the 2-3 hour task. Factors such as depressive mood and poor self-efficacy were shown to increase the risk of excessive tiredness.

Conclusion: People with a neurological injury such as SCI have a high risk of having fatigue and are susceptible to experiencing excessive tiredness when performing extended tasks, and the presence of elevated depressive mood or poor expectations towards self management will increase this susceptibility. Implications for managing fatigue and improving social access in SCI populations are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depression / etiology
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychological Tests
  • Self Efficacy
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / psychology
  • Wakefulness*
  • Young Adult