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J Spinal Cord Med. 2005;28(4):330-2.

Effects of smoking on neuropathic pain in two people with spinal cord injury.

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Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35233-7330, USA.



To describe an apparent relationship between smoking and the neuropathic pain experience in people with spinal cord injury (SCI).


Case Reports.


Two individuals treated at a rehabilitation center. The first was a 38-year-old white man with a T1 2 SCI, American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) impairment scale (AIS) A, secondary to motor vehicle crash. Duration of injury was 14 years. He reported burning pain in his legs, and has smoked 1/2 pack per day for the last 15 years. The second was a 55-year-old African American man with a T6 SCI, AIS A, secondary to gunshot wound. Duration of injury was 22 years. He was a 40-year 1/2 to 1 pack per day smoker, who, after injury, consistently experienced burning, radicular pain, rated 7/10, around the level of the injury.


The first subject rated his pain as 4/10 when not smoking and 7/10 when smoking. The pain subsided 30 minutes after smoking was discontinued. He noted an immediate increase in neuropathic pain when smoking. The second subject quit smoking for 1 month and immediately noted that the pain disappeared, rating it 0/10. After he resumed smoking, his radicular pain was 8.5/10 in the morning and 5/10 in afternoon.


No similar reports have been published, based on a MEDLINE search. Nicotinic receptors have been implicated in pain perception. It is unclear to what extent these 2 cases generalize to the SCI population. We plan to explore this via survey and experimental research. Smoking cessation may have a dual benefit of increased health and decreased neuropathic pain.

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