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Neuropathic pain in a rehabilitation setting after spinal cord injury: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of inpatients’ experiences

Hearn, Jasmine Heath and Finlay, Katherine Anne and Fine, Philip A and Cotter, Imogen (2018) Neuropathic pain in a rehabilitation setting after spinal cord injury: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of inpatients’ experiences. Spinal Cord Series and Cases, 3. ISSN 2058-6124

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Abstract

Study design Qualitative, semi-structured interviews. Objectives Neuropathic pain (NP) can be psychologically and physically debilitating, and is present in approximately half of the spinal cord injured (SCI) population. However, under half of those with NP are adherent to pain medication. Understanding the impact of NP during rehabilitation is required to reduce long-term impact and to promote adherence to medication and psychoeducation recommendations. Setting United Kingdom. Methods Five males and three females with SCI and chronic NP, resident in rehabilitation wards at a specialist SCI center in the United Kingdom, took part. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants less than 15 months post-SCI (mean = 8.4 months). Verbatim transcripts were subject to interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Results Three super-ordinate themes were identified, mediating pain and adherence: (1) the dichotomy of safety perceptions; (2) adherence despite adversity; and (3) fighting the future. Analyses suggest that experience of the rehabilitation setting and responsiveness of care shapes early distress. Attitudes to medication and psychosocial adjustment are relevant to developing expectations about pain management. Conclusions Enhancing self-efficacy, feelings of safety in hospital, and encouraging the adoption of adaptive coping strategies may enhance psychosocial and pain-related outcomes, and improve adherence to medication. Encouraging adaptive responses to, and interpretation of, pain, through the use of interventions such as coping effectiveness training, targeted cognitive behavioral pain management, and acceptance-based interventions such as mindfulness, is recommended in order to reduce long-term reliance on medication.

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