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Spinal Cord. 2001 Feb;39(2):63-73.

Pain following spinal cord injury.

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Pain Management and Research Centre, University of Sydney, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, Australia.


Chronic pain is an important problem following spinal cord injury (SCI) and is a major impediment to effective rehabilitation. The reported prevalence of chronic SCI pain is variable but averages 65% with around one third of these people rating their pain as severe. The mechanisms responsible for the presence of pain are poorly understood. However, evidence from clinical observations and the use of animal models of SCI pain suggests that a number of processes may be important. These include functional and structural plastic changes in the central nervous system following injury, with changes in receptor function and loss of normal inhibition resulting in an increased neuronal excitability. A number of specific types of SCI pain can be distinguished based on descriptors, location and response to treatment. Nociceptive pain can arise from musculoskeletal structures and viscera and neuropathic pain can arise from spinal cord and nerve damage. The role of psychological and environmental factors also needs to be considered. Accurate identification of these pain types will help in selecting appropriate treatment approaches. Current treatments employ a variety of pharmacological, surgical, physical and psychological approaches. However, evidence for many of the treatments in use is still limited. It is hoped that future research will identify effective treatment strategies that accurately target specific mechanisms.

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[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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