Tag Archives: neuropathic pain

Guest Post: “The Party Never Stops”

By Antonia Sinibaldi, an Ambassador for SPINALpedia

If you are or know someone that is new to SPINALpedia or new to spinal cord injury, this article may answer some of your questions. One amazing thing that comes with having a spinal cord injury is nerve pain. For those of you who do not suffer from any type of neuropathy, you’re missing out on a huge party. And the party gets hotter depending on how severe your injury is. Not everybody can be invited. You have to be a VIP.

Here are it’s definitions:

Neuropathy is a disease or dysfunction of one or more peripheral nerves, typically causing numbness or weakness.

Neuralgia is intense, typically intermittent pain along the course of a nerve, especially in the head or face.

Peripheral neuropathy is weakness, numbness, and pain from nerve damage, usually in the hands and feet.

I had my accident when I was 2 years old. All I’ve ever known is life with this injury. One thing I notice is that my nerve pain, which causes spasticity, gets worse the older I get. I am not just sensitive to touch, I am also very sensitive to vibration. Vibration bothers me when I am driving in my van more so than at a party or an outing. One way I can describe to you what it is like living with pain and sensitivity is, imagine your body feels like it has ants all over it and those ants have prickles like porcupines. The body is confused and the problem with spinal cord injuries are that the signals in the body are not properly working or being received.

Some people explain this nerve pain as stabbing. There is not just one symptom, or medication to this issue. There is not just one resolution to the problem either. It’s a plethora of options. Exercise is very important for people with spinal cord injury. Think about it this way, the body is trying to move but the signal is not allowing that to happen in the proper way. That’s why exercise is so important. The human body needs to move no matter what. Exercise for me is a double edged sword. When I exercise I spasm and when I don’t exercise I spasm. However spasming after exercising feels better than when I do not exercise. It feels good to move and stretch.

The signal from the nerve pain does not feel as bad after exercising. That is not just me, there are other people with spinal cord injury that have similar results with exercise. Aside from exercise, there are other ways to manage pain. Diet and medication are important for pain management too. There’s food that is good for the nervous system. Trust me, I’ve done my research. I know what I’m talking about. Over exerting the body can increase pain; nerve pain, spasticity, clonus, and rigidity.

I know that the thought of “I can’t do this anymore” comes to mind often when you have a spinal cord injury. No matter how long you have had the injury, it is nearly impossible not to have that thought sometimes. That’s why I am writing about it now. It is not easy to find writings from the patient’s point of view, it is usually the doctors documenting about spinal cord injury.

That is why SPINALpedia is fantastic! All the writings are from people with injuries or close caregivers. It is helpful to hear and read other people’s stories. It really does get better over time.

To read all about Antonia, plus our other Ambassadors, visit our Ambassador page

SCI Health Series: SCI & Pain

The irony of a spinal cord injury is that many people suffer from chronic pain. There is widespread belief that people with spinal cord injuries don’t feel anything when it is in fact the opposite. Unfortunately, pain is the leading sensation many people with spinal cord injuries report other than numbness, and the reasons for the pain are varied. Often, the chronic pain is caused by the spinal cord injury itself.

Neuropathic Pain

With a spinal cord injury, the brain/spinal cord connection can become confused when trying to interpret pain or other signals. And when it becomes confused, it will interpret any sensation as pain, which can be insufferable to live with.

This type of pain is called neuropathic/neurogenic pain and is often felt as a burning, stabbing or tingling sensation. Several methods are used to treat this type of pain since it is caused by abnormal communication between the spinal cord and the brain. Here are the most common treatments:

Various oral medications are used, with anti-depressants often the first line of treatment. If the pain is not alleviated, narcotics like codeine and some morphine can be used, but they are not often chosen as a treatment option because of their addictive nature. Anti-seizure medications have also been used with success, but anti-depressants more so. When you’re depressed, pain is usually heightened.

Some of the anti-depressants used to treat neuropathic pain are serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSNRIs) like venlafaxine (Effexor) and tricyclics, such as amitripltyline (Elavil). If no improvement is seen through medication options, a dorsal column stimulator can be implanted into the spinal canal to treat pain that is caused by root damage at the nerve.

Other common drugs used to treat pain include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen. Anti-muscle spasm medication is frequently used, too, such as Baclofen or Valium. In addition, therapeutic massage, acupuncture and physical therapy are used to alleviate pain.

Musculoskeletal/Spasm Pain

Another kind of pain many experience is musculoskeletal pain. This is typically caused by overuse or strain of the upper body following a spinal cord injury. From using one’s shoulders too muchfor pushing to using one’s wrists too much to type, this type of pain gets worse by ignoring it. Only rest allows it to get better.

Activity modification is typically used to treat musculoskeletal pain. You should also look at the equipment you’re using, from your wheelchair to your seating, to see if anything can be changed or modified to make it work better for your body. You can also work on improving your transfer or wheelchair-pushing technique.

Figuring out how to manage your pain after a spinal cord injury can be a long road, but don’t lose hope. Also, consider psychological treatments such as relaxation techniques or even psychotherapy to help. A lot of pain can stem from mental unrest.

What kind of pain do you have and how do you treat it?

Learn more

Pain after Spinal Cord Injury

Pain: Reeve Foundation

Pain Management following Spinal Cord Injury

SCI Pain Videos

Perspectives on Pain: A Spinal Cord Injury Panel Discussion

Managing Chronic Pain after Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord Injury ~ Injury Level? Nerve Pain? Referred Pain? What?