Published: June 3, 2006


In general, there are four categories of pain that occurs as a complication of SCI: central, muscle tension, visceral, and psychogenic.

Central Pain

Central pain, also called dysesthetic pain, is typically a burning, tingling, shooting, stinging, or “pins and needles” sensation. Some people also complain of a stabbing, piercing, cutting, and drilling pain. This type of pain usually occurs within days, weeks, or months of the injury and tends to decrease with time in both frequency and intensity. Central pain is diffuse and occurs most often in the legs, back, feet, thighs, and toes, although it can also occur in the buttocks, hips, upper back, arms, fingers, abdomen, and neck.

Central pain occurs more frequently in older, more anxious people. It often results from noxious stimuli, such as smoking, bladder and bowel distention, infections, and skin sores, and from Heterotopic Ossification, deep venous thrombosis, fractures of the arms and legs, prolonged inactivity, Spasticity, fatigue, and Depression.

Muscle Tension

Muscle tension, also known as mechanical pain or musculoskeletal pain, is a dull, aching sensation that occurs in people with or without SCI. Muscle tension, that is a complication of SCI, occurs with increased frequency in the shoulder, hip, and hand, although it also occurs in the lower back and buttocks. Muscle tension is probably caused by a combination of factors, such as abnormalities that may have always been there, inflammation, repetitive trauma, excessive activity, vigorous stretching, and contractions due to paralysis, spasticity, flabbiness, disuse and misuse. Generally speaking, muscle tension is usually aggravated by activity and relieved by rest.

Visceral Pain

Visceral pain is a vague and dull or diffuse sensation, or feeling of discomfort or bloating, in the area of the abdomen, or referred pain felt elsewhere, such as the shoulder. Visceral pain is caused by problems with internal organs, such as the stomach, kidney, gallbladder, urinary bladder, and intestines. These problems include distension, perforation, inflammation, and impaction or constipation, which can cause associated symptoms, such as nausea, fever, and malaise, and pain. Visceral pain is also caused by problems with abdominal muscles and the abdominal wall, such as spasm.

Psychogenic Pain

Psychogenic pain is also known as phantom limb sensations. Its symptoms and causes are variable.


PoinTIS Copyright © 1998 the Louis Calder Memorial Library of the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, all rights reserved.