Spinal Cord Injury Pain

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is one of the most devastating of all disabilities. Every year, more than 10,000 individuals in the United States sustain a spinal cord injury. More than half of all spinal cord injuries occur in young adults, usually 16 to 30 years old, with three quarters of them male. The majority of spinal cord injuries are caused by motor vehicle accidents, violence or sports injuries. Fortunately, improvements in traumatic care over the past 50 years means that more than 90 percent of SCI victims survive their injury and go on to live normal life spans – an average of 40 years after their injury.

Nervous System

How does spinal cord injury pain develop?

The spinal cord and brain together comprise the Central Nervous System (CNS). The spinal cord is responsible for the body’s movement and sensation. Once injured, it does not repair itself. The master link between our brains and our bodies, the spinal cord contains millions of individual nerve fibers in a highly organized weave. Nerve cells direct impulses from the brain to specific muscles in the body. The spinal cord is also a conduit for information that regulates many of our involuntary functions, including bladder, bowel and sexual functions, as well as blood pressure, respiration and temperature control. The cord also contains internal nerve circuits that regulate our walking rhythm and joint reflexes that will, for example, cause us to automatically lift our foot when we stub our toe.

The spinal cord is organized into sections along its length. Nerves from each segment connect to specific parts of the body. Thus, the severity of the injury, and the associated pain, an individual will experience depends on where on the spinal cord the injury took place. The neck, or cervical region, referred to as C1 to C8, controls signals to the neck, arms and hands, as well as respiration. Injuries in this region of the spine usually result in quadriplegia. The thoracic or upper back region, T1 to T12, controls signals to the torso and some parts of the arms. The lumbar region, L1 through L5, controls the hips and legs. Individuals with injuries in the L1 through L5 region will experience decreasing control of the hip flexors and legs.

What are the symptoms of spinal cord injury pain?

In addition to a loss of sensation or motor functioning, individuals with SCI also experience other changes. For example, they may experience bowel and bladder dysfunction. Sexual functioning is frequently affected, and while the fertility of men with SCI is affected, this is generally not the case for women. Very high injuries (C-1, C-2) can result in a loss of many involuntary functions, including the ability to breathe. Other effects of SCI may include low blood pressure, an inability to regulate blood pressure effectively, reduced control of body temperature and inability to sweat below the level of the injury. Pain is similar to Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSDS) pain and may radiate up or down the leg, but almost always resides in the rectal and pelvic area. It typically manifests itself as a burning pain in or near the rectum. Pain may also be felt in an area that is compensating for the lack of functioning in another area.

The Response of Modern Medicine

Modern medical treatment of a spinal cord injury, which usual involves significant pain below the level of the injury, typically includes painkillers. This approach not only provides limited benefit, but the afflicted individual eventually becomes addicted to the painkillers, with larger and larger doses needed to ease the pain. The problem with this approach is that it does nothing to repair the loose and damaged ligaments in the spine and elsewhere and, thus, does not alleviate the chronic pain that people who have had this injury experience.

More invasive approaches to control the pain experienced after a spinal cord injury include placing a pump into the spinal canal that supplies narcotics directly into the spinal cord. Another approach is to place a spinal cord stimulator next to the spinal cord to “trick” the body so it does not feel the pain. The body, however, is smarter than any computer gizmo and the pain soon returns. Some individuals have even resorted to having their spinal cord severed in order to relieve the pain. But again, these treatments provide only temporary relief because they do not address the root cause of the problem.

The Natural Medicine Approach to Spinal Cord Injury Pain

A better approach is to use Prolotherapy on the joints that are still working, both in the spine and elsewhere where joints and limbs are working harder because of the spinal cord injury. Severe shoulder pain is quite common after a spinal cord injury, and Prolotherapy to that area is quite effective to eliminate pain. If the spinal cord injury involved a cracked vertebra and a spinal fusion was done to repair the area, it is not uncommon for the pain to change as the individual gets older because of degeneration above and below the fused area. Prolotherapy to the spine has also been found to be very effective here.

Chronic pain is most commonly due to tendon and ligament weakness or cartilage deterioration. The safest and most effective natural medicine treatment for repairing tendon, ligament and cartilage damage is Prolotherapy. In simple terms, Prolotherapy stimulates the body to repair painful areas. It does so by inducing a mild inflammatory reaction in the weakened ligaments and cartilage. Since the body heals by inflammation, Prolotherapy stimulates healing.

Prolotherapy offers the most curative results in treating chronic pain. It effectively eliminates pain because it attacks the source: the fibro-osseous junction, an area rich in sensory nerves. What’s more, the tissue strengthening and pain relief stimulated by Prolotherapy is permanent!

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