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Most spinal-cord injury patients suffer ‘abnormal’ pain: poll

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Three-quarters of paralyzed spinal-cord injury patients suffer from persistent abnormal pain, according to a study released Friday.

A group of spinal cord injury patients and the Japan Spinal Cord Foundation carried out a survey on about 1,600 patients nationwide.

This is the first time a survey this large on the malady has been conducted in Japan.

According to the survey, there is a lack of awareness on the part of physicians and a shortage of medical services to deal with the unusual pain. Only a quarter of the patients were told about potential treatments.

The pain is believed to be caused by false neurological signals sent to the Central Nervous System following injuries to the spinal cord.

“Some of us are suffering because of the misconception that paralyzed patients can’t feel pain,” said the leader of the patients’ group, Yuki Abe.

She said the pain is a serious ailment concurrent with spinal cord injury and called for establishment of a treatment regime.

The 1,659 patients, whose spinal cords were damaged in sports or traffic accidents, or by diseases, including cancer, were surveyed in February and March. Most were injured more than 20 years ago.

About 75 percent of the pollees said they had experienced abnormal pain, and about 68 percent said they were currently suffering it.

The pain is described in many ways. Some say it is as if they are being stabbed with a sharp object. Others say they feel pins and needles.

More than half reported constant pain. Some needed sleeping pills, and there have even been suicide attempts. Yet less than half the patients are receiving treatment.

There are an estimated 5,000 new spinal cord injury patients each year in Japan, and the total is probably more than 100,000.

The Japan Times

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