Experiences of communication changes following spinal cord injury: a qualitative analysis

Experiences of communication changes following spinal cord injury: a qualitative analysis

Published 29th January 2019

Wall, L.,  Nund, R., Ward, E., Cornwell, P. & Amsters, D

Purpose: Voice and communication changes can occur following cervical spinal cord injury due to dysfunction of the respiratory and phonatory subsystems. Few studies have explored the “lived experience” of communication changes post cervical spinal cord injury. Furthermore, the impacts of these changes on community activity/participation and requirements for psychosocial adjustment have not been well-elucidated. The current study explored the experience of communication changes in non-ventilated individuals following cervical spinal cord injury, using a biopsychosocial framework.

Materials and Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 community-dwelling non-ventilated individuals with cervical spinal cord injury. Thematic analysis was undertaken using an inductive approach. Themes were subsequently coded against domains of the World Health Organization International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health model, using established linking rules.

Results: Four main themes were identified: (1) how communication has changed; (2) difficulties getting the message across, (3) the multifactorial impact of communication changes on everyday life; and (4) strategies/support to adjust to communication changes. Communication changes had multifaceted effects on participants’ functioning, and were represented equally across the Body Functions (12 codes), Activities/Participation (12 codes), and Environmental Factors (11 codes) domains of the model.

Conclusions: Individuals with cervical spinal cord injury perceive and experience meaningful changes on communication function post-injury, with salient impacts to daily-living and social participation.


Publication Type

Journal Article