Neuropathic pain in spinal cord injury: topical analgesics as a possible treatment

T C Crul, J M Stolwijk-Swüste, D J Kopsky, J M A Visser-Meily, M W M Post

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


STUDY DESIGN: Review of the literature and semi-structured interviews.

OBJECTIVE: To explore the possible use of topical analgesics for the treatment of neuropathic pain (NP) in spinal cord injury (SCI).

SETTING: Institute for Neuropathic Pain, Soest, The Netherlands.

METHODS: A review was performed of studies on topical analgesics for SCI-related NP published up to May 2019. In addition, eight persons with SCI-related NP who were treated with topical analgesics were interviewed in a semi-structured interview on their experience with topical analgesics.

RESULTS: Seven studies (five case reports and two case series) were found that evaluated the use of topical analgesics for SCI-related NP. None of the studies used a control treatment. Topical analgesics included baclofen, ketamine, lidocaine, capsaicin, and isosorbide dinitrate. All studies reported a decrease in NP over time. Persons interviewed were 49-72 years of age and all but one had an incomplete SCI. They used topical agents containing phenytoin, amitriptyline, baclofen, ketamine or loperamide. All showed a decrease in pain of at least 3 points on the 11-point numeric rating scale during this treatment.

DISCUSSION/CONCLUSIONS: Evidence on the use of topical analgesics in SCI is scarce. Case reports, case series and interviews suggest that the use of topical analgesics can be beneficial in treating SCI-related NP. Placebo-controlled studies are required to investigate the effect of topical analgesics on SCI-related NP.

Original languageEnglish
Article number73
JournalSpinal cord series and cases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13-Aug-2020

Cite this