Many of my clients who have suffered a spinal cord injury (SCI) not only have to deal with the complications that these types of injuries can lead to but they also experience a great deal of pain. Pain can be hard for people to describe so I wanted to share this list regarding identifying the different types of pain and, hopefully, to help people be able to better communicate what they are experiencing to their doctors.
“There are two kinds of spinal cord injury pain – acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain begins suddenly. The cause of the pain is usually from physical damage to the body from an injury. Acute pain is a danger signal; it means something is wrong and that you need help. When the problem is fixed or the body heals, the pain goes away.”
“Chronic pain may start suddenly or build up slowly over time; sometimes a cause is known, sometimes not. Chronic pain does not go away as you would expect. It is usually not as dangerous as acute pain, but do not ignore it. Chronic pain remains a difficult condition to treat in many persons with SCI.” (source http://pain-medicine.med.nyu.edu/)
5 Types of Pain After a Spinal Cord Injury
Central pain can cause you the most problems. You feel pain where you are not supposed to feel anything or where your feeling is different. Central pain often begins weeks or months after a spinal cord injury. It can cause a pins and needles feeling, numbness, or a burning feeling throughout the area below your level of injury. The pain may be constant. At best, it is bothersome. At worst, it can be so severe that it limits your ability to function fully in life.
Doctors believe the cause of central pain may be due to changes in the functioning of nerves following a spinal cord injury. They think that pain signals are really coming from somewhere other than where you think.
The pain you feel at, or below, the level of injury is root pain. Root pain has a distinct pattern. It often begins days to weeks after injury and may worsen over time. You may feel brief waves of stabbing or sharp pain or a band of burning pain at the point where your normal feeling stops. You may find that light touch worsens this pain.
Mechanical pain can range from sudden sharpness to dull and aching. Physical activity often makes the pain worse. You feel this pain in areas where you have normal sensation. Causes include muscle overuse or damage, unstable bone fractures, infection, or deforming change in your bones and joints.
Sometimes as the spinal cord heals itself, a hollow, fluid filled cavity forms, called a syrinx. Although rare, it results in pain that varies in severity and can occur either above or below the site of injury. A syrinx can slowly increase in size and extend up or down the spinal cord. Syrinx pain develops months to years after injury. It can result in gradual loss of organ function, feeling, or movement.
Referred pain is unusual because you feel it in areas away from the source of the problem. The site can be your organs, muscles, or other tissues. In areas where you cannot feel pain, you may see or feel increased muscle spasticity. For example, if you had a heart attack, the pain you might feel might be somewhere in your left arm and shoulder.
If you or a loved one is dealing with any medical issues related to a spinal cord injury at work or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia”, or call our office today (804) 755-7755.