Pain in a Spinal Cord Injury - Topic Overview
Pain in a
spinal cord injury (SCI) can be complicated and
confusing. There are different types of pain, and they are often described in
different ways. You may feel pain where you have feeling. But you may also feel
pain in an area where otherwise you have no feeling. The pain may be severe at
some times. But at other times it may disappear or bother you only a little.
The most common type of pain experienced with SCI is neuropathic
pain around the injury area. This is also known as the "circle of fire" or the
"ring of fire." Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the nervous system.
Other types of pain include musculoskeletal (pain in the bones, muscles, and
joints), and visceral (pain in the abdomen).
Neuropathic pain is caused by
damage to the
nervous system. It is common in SCIs.
- Spinal cord injury (central) pain occurs in
areas where you have lost some or all of your feeling. It is not related to
movements you make or to your position. It is often described as tingling,
numbness, or throbbing. This is sometimes called "the circle of
- Segmental pain often occurs around the "border" between
where you have feeling and do not have feeling.
- Nerve root
entrapment pain occurs at or just below the level of injury. It results in
brief instances of sharp pain or burning pain where your normal feeling stops.
Even touching the area lightly may make the pain worse.
Musculoskeletal pain occurs in
the bones, joints, and muscles. Unlike neuropathic pain, movement affects it,
and it is usually made worse by movement and eased with rest. It is often
described as a dull or aching pain.
- Secondary overuse pain is caused by the overuse
of muscles in any part of the body. In people with an SCI, this often occurs
because one muscle group is always used. For example, it may develop in the arm
or shoulder as a result of pushing a manual wheelchair.
spasm pain is painful involuntary movements (spasms) of a body part that you
cannot move or can only partially move. The pain is caused when muscles and
joints are strained.