Gender and minority differences in the pain experience of people with spinal cord injury

Diana D. Cardenas, Thomas N. Bryce, Kazuko Shem, J. Scott Richards, Hanaa Elhefni

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Cardenas DD, Bryce TN, Shem K, Richards JS, Elhefni H. Gender and minority differences in the pain experience of people with spinal cord injury. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2004;85:1774-81. Objectives To examine gender and minority differences in the prevalence and severity of pain in people with traumatic-onset spinal cord injury (SCI) during follow-up, and to determine the relation of those differences to demographic characteristics, etiology of injury, and level and extent of the lesion. Design Survey and analysis of cross-sectional data using case-control methodology and multiple regression methods. Setting Model Spinal Cord Injury Systems (MSCIS). Participants A total of 7379 individuals with traumatic-onset SCI from 16 MSCIS entered in the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center database between 1998 and 2002. Interventions Not applicable. Main outcome measures Prevalence and severity of pain as reported in follow-up surveys. Results Pain prevalence remained fairly stable over time, ranging from 81% at 1 year postinjury to 82.7% at 25 years. Pain was no more common in women than in men, nor did pain severity scores differ significantly. However, pain prevalence was significantly lower among nonwhites, although they tended to report a higher average pain severity score when pain was present. Also, people with SCI who were employed when injured, who had more than a high school education, and who were not tetraplegic reported a higher prevalence of pain. Pain interfered with work more often for women and nonwhites during some, but not all, follow-up years, and for those who were not employed at the time of interview, for those whose SCI was caused by violence, for those with paraplegia, and for those with incomplete SCI. Conclusions Pain is a common and significant problem for the majority of people with SCI. It may interfere less frequently with work over time, which suggests that an adaptive process may be occurring. Gender differences in the pain experience did not emerge, but nonwhites tended to have a lower prevalence of pain. If pain was present, nonwhites tended to report more severe pain than did whites. Further research is needed to delineate the possible psychosocial and biomedical causes of these findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1774-1781
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Gender
  • Pain
  • Race
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries


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