Dealing with Spasticity and Pain

Spasticity and pain can happen after a spinal cord injury, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. Explore tips for preventing or managing these common issues.

Dealing with Spasticity and Pain

Learn how to deal with spasticity and pain after a spinal cord injury.

After your spinal cord injury, you may experience spasticity, which is a sudden involuntary contraction of muscles. You may also have some pain. This is normal, as long as it’s not an indication of further injury or infection. Learn how best to manage and deal with both of these issues.

Managing spasticity

Many people with spinal cord injuries or certain diseases (such as multiple sclerosis) have problems with uncontrolled spasms of their arms or legs. A certain amount of spasms can be good because they help to maintain muscle tone and to increase blood circulation to the legs. However, too many spasms can be painful and make daily living activities difficult for you and your caregiver.

If spasms occur, your healthcare team can help you identify and eliminate possible causes, such as a pressure ulcer or a bladder infection. They can also show you how to stretch your muscles, exercise them and apply pressure to the limb when it spasms, if needed.

Other options for managing spasms that you can discuss with your doctor include:

  • Medications
  • Nerve blocks
  • Surgery
  • Interventions (e.g. spinal stimulators or infusion pumps)

Managing pain

Following your injury, it is normal to experience certain kinds of pain. Two common types are neuropathic pain and musculoskeletal pain.

Neuropathic pain: People often describe this as a burning sensation, or feeling like being constantly poked with “pins and needles.” Others say they feel an electric or cold sensation. This pain is usually felt at or below the level of your injury.

Musculoskeletal pain: This type of pain is often in the back, shoulders or wrists. It usually happens after physical stress or physical exertion like lifting, moving, and exercising. Certain pain symptoms, however, may be an indicator of an injury or infection. If you are experiencing pain, consult with your healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Although these two issues can occur after a spinal cord injury, the good news is that there are practical steps you can take to avoid or minimise spasticity and effectively deal with pain. It’s always best to work with your healthcare team to address spasticity and pain right away, so you have a clear plan going forward.