We’ve always been quite fond of the work the Reeve Foundation does with producing educational booklets addressing many secondary symptoms of a spinal cord injury and we’re happy to say that their latest one, Pain Management, hits it out of the ballpark. A type of chronic pain called neurogenic or neuropathic pain often accompanies paralysis – it is a cruel irony for people who lack sensation to experience the agony of pain.
Pain is a complicated process that involves an intricate interplay between a number of chemicals found naturally in the brain and spinal cord. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, transmit nerve impulses from one cell to another. There is a critical lack of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter, in the injured spinal cord. This may "disinhibit" spinal neurons that are responsible for pain sensations, causing them to fire more than normal. This disinhibition is believed to be the root of spasticity, too.