Simply defined, pain is a signal by the nervous system emitted to let us know about some kind of tissue injury. Neuropathic pain is a common complaint by spinal cord injury sufferers who have to deal with years, and even decades of the same as well as the administration of sometimes strong medications as well as habit-forming ones such as opioids in order to manage breakthrough pain. Neuropathic pain can be acute or something that one lives with as it hums away in the background, with no reprieve except for those short moments of relief that one experiences just after taking a pill or increasing medication in a pain pump. Chronic, neuropathic pain can be debilitating for spinal cord injury and prevent them from being fully present in life, thereby lowering their quality of life.
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There are 3 forms of pain when it comes to spinal cord injury:
- Tier 1 which is referred to as nociceptive, neuropathic or unknown pain
- Tier 2 which is a subtype of nociceptive and neuropathic pain
- Tier 3 which is organ level pain as well as pain of unknown etiology or source
Neuropathic pain is the most common type of pain experienced by spinal cord injury patients. It is caused by abnormal brain and nervous system communication caused by the severing of nerves. In such instances, one may experience pain in areas that are actually fine, and vice versa. This type of chronic pain is usually seen a few days to weeks after your spinal cord injury described by its sufferers as a type of stabbing, shooting or burning pain.
Neuropathic pain can further be divided into the following types:
- SCI Pain, which is pain felt below the injury, but which can be experienced in one’s entire body.
- Segmental pain which is felt in the general area of the trunk, often showing up in concert with hyperalgesia and allodynia, which are exaggerated response to things that aren’t as painful and the experience of pain from things that do not typically cause any pain such as temperature fluctuations.
- Radicular pain which is caused by damage to the root of a nerve or a nerve getting ensconsed by inflammation or shards of bone from the spinal cord injury. This kind of pain can be alleviated by exercising or moving around, and it typically affects only one side of your body.
Neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury can be treated with antiseizure medication, antidepressants and narcotics, although the risk of addiction means that they must be used prudently.
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