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Pain among Veterans with Spinal Cord Injury


VA cares for approximately 15% of persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) in the United States. Studies estimate that the prevalence of chronic pain following SCI is more than 75%, but the nature and characteristics of pain among veterans with SCI are not well understood. Investigators in this study compared veterans and non-veterans with SCI on pain intensity, pain interference, and functioning, in addition to demographics and medical characteristics. Investigators assessed data collected from a mailed survey completed by 132 veterans with SCI who received care at VA SCI Centers and 289 non-veterans. Results show that while pain among participants was at clinically significant levels, veterans were not significantly different from non-veterans on pain intensity or pain interference. Veterans did report lower levels of functioning than non-veterans, which was attributable to age differences between the two groups, with veterans tending to be older than non-veterans. Veterans also reported higher rates of pain-related catastrophizing (exaggerated negative interpretations of pain, e.g., “my pain is unbearable and will never get better”). Authors suggest that in clinical settings it may be important to assess and manage catastrophizing as a factor important to the experience of pain and especially the impact of pain on functioning.

PubMed Logo Ullrich P, Jensen M, Loeser J, Cardenas D, and Weaver F. Pain among Veterans with Spinal Cord Injury. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development 2008;45(6):793-800.

This study was partly funded by VA/HSR&D’s Spinal Cord Injury Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (SCI-QUERI). Drs. Ullrich and Weaver are part of SCI-QUERI.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.