Original Research

Determining the management of pain in people with spinal cord injury by physiotherapists in South Africa

Bernice James, Mokgadi K. Mashola, Diphale J. Mothabeng
South African Journal of Physiotherapy | Vol 78, No 1 | a1767 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajp.v78i1.1767 | © 2022 Bernice James, Mokgadi K. Mashola, Diphale J. Mothabeng | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 December 2021 | Published: 27 July 2022

About the author(s)

Bernice James, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Mokgadi K. Mashola, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Diphale J. Mothabeng, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Pain after spinal cord injury (SCI) is common, and physiotherapy plays a pivotal role in alleviating pain for people with SCI.

Objective: To determine the modalities that physiotherapists in South Africa use to treat SCI-related pain and the factors that guide the selection of treatment modalities.

Method: A quantitative, cross-sectional design using a self-developed online survey was distributed to physiotherapists belonging to the South African Society of Physiotherapy and the Physiotherapy Association of South Africa. Data were analysed using SPSS v26, where descriptive data were analysed using frequency, percentages, means and standard deviations, and Fisher’s exact tests for inferential analyses. Open-ended questions underwent thematic analysis.

Results: Forty-six responses were received. The most-used modalities were transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (29.8%), exercises (27.7%) and joint mobilisations (29.8%). Most physiotherapists used standardised measurements to objectively assess pain characteristics, with the visual analog scale being the most used (70.2%). Except for the cost of treatment, the factors that guided the selection of the modalities included the pain type, onset, duration, location and intensity, pain interference, duration of treatment, patient’s preferences, other treatments that the patient was receiving for pain and psychosocial factors (87.2%).

Conclusions: Local physiotherapists use pain management modalities that are supported by the evidence to treat SCI-related pain.

Clinical implications: This study highlights the common modalities used by physiotherapists to treat SCI-related pain, as well as the selection criteria for the modalities. Owing to the low response rate, we caution against generalising these findings across the SCI pain management field.


Keywords

nociceptive pain; neuropathic pain; pain management; physiotherapy; South Africa; spinal cord injury

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