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Arch Hellen Med, 34(3), May-June 2017, 373-382


Factors affecting chronic pain in people with spinal cord injury

S.P. Kosmidou, S.A. Batsiou, H.T. Douda, P.D. Antoniou
Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, Democritus University of Thrace, Komotini, Greece

OBJECTIVE To investigate the intensity of chronic pain (CP) in people with spinal cord injury (SCI) in relation to their level of exercise, sex and age, and the level and chronicity of the injury, and the consequences of CP for their daily activities.

METHOD A total of 147 men and women with SCI (57 athletes, 53 exercisers, 40 non-exercisers) participated in the study. They all met the inclusion criteria of being wheelchair-dependent. The Chronic Pain Grade Questionnaire (CPGQ) was administered by three different methods of data collection: Interview, postal questionnaire and questionnaire via e-mail.

RESULTS The level of intensity of CP reported by the participants ranged in the lower levels. Most of the athletes, men or women, in all age groups, reported experiencing minor or no pain. In general, the athletes appeared to experience less pain than the other participants. The non-exercising participants reported moderate to high pain intensity and a greater degree of restriction of their activities compared to the other two groups. Women reported pain intensity slightly higher than men (p=0.054). The findings showed that age [F(3,143)=0.281, p>0.05] and the level of SCI (t=0.379, df=145, p>0.05) did not affect the intensity of CP while its chronicity did [F(3,143)=2.790, p<0.05]; people who had recently acquired the disability (0–6 years) reported more pain than those who had SCI for 7–10 years.

CONCLUSIONS The participants with SCI in this study did not experience high levels of chronic pain. Occupation with sport and physical activity in general was shown to be the most significant factor related to low levels of CP in people with SCI. Additional research is recommended, however, to be focused on other parameters that may act against CP in people with SCI. Such studies can be aimed to motivate the incorporation of exercise and other alleviating factors in the lives of people with SCI with a view to achieving the least possible restriction of their activities.

Key words: Exercise, Impairment, Pain, Spinal cord injury, Sport.

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