Dealing with chronic pain
Chronic pain is a common side effect of spinal-cord injury. It can be felt above and even at or below the point of injury. However, when it’s at or below the injury level, it’s hard to categorize and therefore hard to treat.
There are several types of pain that someone with SCI can experience and these chronic pains can last months or even years. With the help of your doctor, you can find which type of pain you’re experiencing and find the best way to treat it.
Types of Pain
Neuropathic pain- The most common form of pain related to SCI, it’s caused by abnormal processing of sensory input from the damaged nerves.
Musculoskeletal pain- Common in all people, this mechanical pain comes from problems in muscles or bones that occurs due to injury at the time of SCI or following SCI. It can also be caused by overuse, strain, arthritis or wear and tear of the joints from using a wheelchair.
Visceral pain- This abdominal pain occurs in the stomach and digestive area. Its main cause is gastrointestinal complications such as ulcers, constipation or appendicitis that have gone untreated. This often happens in people with SCI because they don’t experience the typical associated symptoms of these conditions.
The treatment you choose will depend on the type of pain you experience. Once you have a diagnosis for your pain you can move forward in treating it.
Medical treatments include drugs, morphine drips and anti-inflammatory pills. However, many of these methods are only temporary and a more holistic approach may create better results for the long term. Adding regular exercise, stress management such as yoga and meditation, getting plenty of sleep, icing, massage and Eastern medicine practices like acupuncture to your medication regimen can increase its success.