“For many people, pain can be more significant than the paralysis that goes along with the injury, which is strange to say. There’s even research that suggests that if people were given the choice, they’d rather get rid of the pain than be able to walk again—that’s a pretty profound statement.”

Spinal cord injury, while devasting to those who experience it, is perhaps even more debilitating in its impact on patients than most believe. While it is a very visual injury and its effects are often quite clear—paralysis, loss of function, etc.—there are many effects of it that are unseen, and the consequences of these may be even greater.

These secondary medical complications can include pain, which can emerge as tingling and burning sensations for patients or as phantom limb pain. In fact, Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD, told NeurologyLive that sometimes, despite not being able to feel certain limbs, patients with spinal cord injury have expressed that, if given the choice, they’d prefer to lose this secondary complication over regaining use of their limbs.

Dyson-Hudson, director, Center for Spinal Cord Injury Research, and co-director, Spinal Cord Injury Model System Center, Kessler Foundation, spoke to the work that he and colleagues are doing to help alleviate some of these secondary complications for patients. He explained that the research, though in its early stages, also includes combination work with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) work to explore if there are brain changes occurring during these complications, as well as how to address upper limb pain which occurs for patients who are wheelchair-bound.