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Physical Activity and Pain

Pain is a frequently noted complication in persons with SCI. Although reports vary widely, given historical variations in pain classification and differences in rating pain severity across the various pain categories (i.e., at-, above- or below-lesion neuropathic pain; visceral; musculoskeletal) it is generally established that an average of about two-thirds of people with SCI report some form of pain and nearly one-third of these rate their pain as severe (Siddall and Loeser 2001). Physical activity interventions have been linked to mitigating some of the effects of chronic pain in SCI and the reader is referred to SCIRE Chapter: Pain Following Spinal Cord Injury (Teasell et al. 2010) for more information on this topic. In the following section, we present those specific evidence-based statements and bottom-line conclusions from this chapter related to physical activity.

Conclusions – From SCIRE: Pain Following SCI

Exercises for Post-SCI Pain

There is level 1 evidence from a single RCT (Martin Ginis et al. 2003) that a regular exercise program significantly reduces post-SCI pain.

  • Regular exercise reduces post-SCI pain.

Exercises for Shoulder Pain

There is level 2 evidence (from one RCT and one PCT) that a shoulder exercise protocol reduces the intensity of shoulder pain post-SCI.

There is level 4 evidence that the MAGIC wheels 2-gear wheelchair results in less shoulder pain.

  • Shoulder exercise protocol reduces post-SCI shoulder pain intensity.