Managing Chronic Pain After a Spinal Cord Injury

man with spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injuries often cause many different and problematic symptoms and side effects, including chronic pain that can persist long after other symptoms have subsided. This type of pain is not limited to injuries causing total, partial, permanent, or temporary paralysis; even non-paralyzing spinal cord injuries can result in prolonged discomfort and health problems. Chronic pain can significantly impact your quality of life, especially when it is unmanaged or untreated. Fortunately, there are various methods available to help manage chronic pain related to spine damage, ranging from medications and physical therapy to alternative and advanced medical treatments.

How Spinal Cord Injuries Can Cause Chronic Pain

Spinal cord injuries can lead to chronic pain due to the damage they cause to nerves and surrounding tissues, which disrupts normal pain signaling pathways. Damage to the spine and spinal cord can result in different types of pain, such as neuropathic pain, which arises from nerve damage and is often described as burning or stabbing, and musculoskeletal pain, which stems from muscle and bone stress due to altered body mechanics and posture. The fact that the spinal cord is more or less the nervous system’s pathway to the rest of the body also means that chronic pain can occur in body parts that are seemingly unaffected by the original injury.

Typically, a spinal cord injury can cause these lasting issues:

  • Chronic pain: Chronic or phantom pain may be permanent following a spinal cord injury. Some patients may even feel pain in body parts that have otherwise been completely paralyzed, so they lack all other sensations.
  • Loss of sensation: Nerve damage can cause abnormal sensations or pain throughout the body, like a numbing feeling, leading to constant discomfort that affects daily activities.
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis: Lack of mobility caused by a spinal cord injury can result in muscle atrophy and joint pain, contributing to chronic pain and reducing the patient’s physical abilities overall.
  • Spasms and reflex abnormalities: Involuntary muscle contractions can cause significant pain and interfere with sleep and overall comfort. Such spasms usually appear in specific body parts and muscle groups based on the part of the spine that was damaged.
  • Bladder and bowel dysfunction: If a spinal cord injury occurs toward the lower sections of the spine, it may result in issues with the bladder and bowel. Loss of bladder and bowel dysfunction often causes frequent abdominal pain and mental health difficulties as struggles with personal hygiene and self-image arise.

Different Ways to Manage Chronic Pain After a Spinal Cord Injury

Chronic pain following a spinal cord injury is clearly life-changing. However, that doesn't mean you will have no options to deal with it. Thanks to medical technologies and methods, several treatments may be available that could help alleviate the pain, even if only temporarily, so you can find some improved quality of life.

It might be possible to manage chronic pain from a spinal cord injury with:

  • Medications: Prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including analgesics and anti-inflammatories, can help manage pain levels.
  • Physical therapy: Structured exercise and rehabilitation programs can strengthen muscles and improve mobility while also reducing daily pain.
  • Alternative therapies: Techniques such as acupuncture and chiropractic care can provide relief by targeting specific pain points.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgical interventions may be necessary to address underlying issues contributing to pain, such as nerve compression.
  • Psychological support: Counseling and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help manage the emotional and mental aspects of chronic pain that often take many people by surprise.

Of course, the best way to find the treatments that will help with your chronic pain is to talk with your doctor or medical provider. With your medical history and preferences, you and your doctor can decide what to do next, go over potential outcomes and risks, and more before you make a decision.

How Much Does Specialized Care Cost?

Specialized care for chronic pain after a spinal cord injury can be extremely costly, as treatments often require advanced therapies, medications, and medical interventions that are typically expensive. This financial burden is furthered by the fact that such specialized treatments are usually not fully covered by standard healthcare insurance policies, leaving patients to shoulder significant out-of-pocket expenses. As a result, managing chronic pain effectively can become a substantial financial challenge for most people dealing with spinal cord injuries.

Pursuing a lawsuit or legal claim can be a viable way to seek compensation for some, though. Compensation won through a claim or lawsuit can help cover the significant costs associated with specialized care and treatments that are often not covered by standard health insurance policies. However, not every spinal cord injury case will lead to a lawsuit or injury claim; only cases involving third-party negligence will be viable for legal action with the help of an attorney.

Go Over Your Options with a Lawyer

If you or a loved one is experiencing chronic pain from a spinal cord injury caused by someone else's negligence, you should explore your legal options soon. The Law Office of Joshua W. Branch, LLC, with our headquarters in Athens, Georgia, is committed to helping locals understand their rights and pursue the compensation they deserve. We can handle complex and catastrophic injury cases that can be resolved through settlement negotiations or go to court for litigation. No matter what, we’re ready to fight for you, just as we have done for countless others throughout the years.

Contact us today to schedule a FREE consultation with our spinal cord injury attorneys. Dial (706) 760-9220 at any time.

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