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Volume 42 Number 5, September/October 2005
Pages 573 — 584

Abstract - Prevalence and characteristics of chronic pain in veterans with spinal cord injury

Diana H. Rintala, PhD;* Sally Ann Holmes, MD; Richard Neil Fiess; Daisy Courtade, MA; Paul G. Loubser, MD

Michael E. DeBakey Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Houston, TX; Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
Abstract — To assess prevalence and characteristics of individual chronic (>6 mo) pain components in the veteran spinal cord injury (SCI) population, we conducted a telephone survey with 348 (66%) of 530 veterans with SCI who received care from one regional Department of Veterans Affairs SCI center during a 3 yr period. The short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire was used to assess qualitative properties of the pain experience. Other questions were used to assess frequency, duration, intensity, exacerbating factors, and effects on daily activities. Of the participants, 75% reported at least one chronic pain component. The majority (83%) of the chronic pain components occurred daily (mean = 27.4 d/mo) and lasted most of the day (mean = 17.4 h/d). Mean pain intensity in the week before the interview averaged 6.7 (on a 0 to 10 scale), while worst pain intensity averaged 8.6. Two-thirds (67%) of the chronic pain components interfered with daily activities. The most commonly selected pain descriptors were "aching," "sharp," "hot-burning," and "tiring-exhausting." More research is needed to identify better ways to prevent, assess, and treat chronic pain in the veteran SCI population.
Key words: adult, chronic, female, intractable pain, male, prevalence, spinal cord injury, survey, telephone, veterans.

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