How to Feel Healthier After Spinal Cord Injury

Although spinal cord injury is incredibly difficult to live with and adjust to, there are still many actions you can take to feel healthier after the experience, since spinal cord injury patients may have to deal with numerous serious health problems that go beyond paralysis.

Although spinal cord injury is difficult to live with and adjust to, there are many actions to take to feel healthier after the experience.

Those with spinal cord injuries are also at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems, pneumonia, life-threatening blood clots, pressure ulcers and chronic pain according to a report published by Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. 

There is a lot to consider for something so life-changing on its own, but dealing with spinal cord injury can be supported in small but sure ways.

Healthy diet, healthy mind 

Nutrition is arguably the biggest factor in the journey to feeling healthier. Just by eating the right foods, further complications caused by spinal cord injury can be prevented or reduced. Good nutrition can prevent issues like urinary tract infections, pressure wounds and bowel misfunctions from causing trouble in patients with spinal cord injury. 

Taking care of your bowel 

Eating the right amount of calories and ensuring you make time for three well-balanced meals each day, made up of protein, a serving of fruits, a serving of vegetables, some form of grains and some low-fat dairy will maintain nutrition and help to regulate bowel movements – especially for those suffering from bowel management issues.  

Eating 15-30 grams of fibre every day will encourage the stool to move through the bowel. Great sources of fibre include whole grains, whole wheat, fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s important to monitor fibre intake, as more than 20 grams may increase the risk of constipation. Drinking 1.5L of water a day encourages the stool to remain soft, making it easier to pass. 

Keeping track of the food consumed and recording bowel movements will help assess how different food and fluids affect the body, making it easier to know the best food to consume when bowel trouble occurs. A dietitian or primary care doctor will be able to assess this. 

Preventing urinary tract infections

Those with spinal cord injury may be at higher risk for urinary tract infections. This is why drinking enough fluids is incredibly important in maintaining health, and it can also prevent kidney and bladder stones. Drinking too many liquids, however, can cause bladder urgency and low sodium levels – increasing the risk of muscle cramps and seizures.

Weight management 

Weight management is important for any person wanting to feel healthy, but someone with spinal cord injury may find it difficult to manage their weight if they are unable to move as regularly as someone without injury. If someone with an SCI becomes overweight, there is a higher risk for metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 

With a lower level of active energy being used and a lower metabolic rate, those with spinal cord injury will have lower energy and calorie requirements. Maintaining a healthy weight allows for easier transfers, but keep in mind that if their weight drops too low, people with SCI will develop a worrying risk of skin breakdown and malnutrition. When overweight, transfers are more difficult and put you at higher risk for shoulder damage.

When underweight, there is a risk of pressure wounds due to less protective fat or muscle between the skin and the bone. 

It’s recommended that patients with tetraplegia exercise daily undertake a range of motion exercises with the support of a caregiver. For paraplegics, using a manual wheelchair can increase energy use and increase metabolic rate to help maintain weight, however, the propelling motion of using a wheelchair can cause shoulder damage. Investigations into a handbike or cardiovascular exercising such as boxing would be useful in increasing the metabolic rate but also for protecting shoulders longer term. 

Protect your skin 

Breakdown of skin can be one of the most sufferable complications for people who have a spinal cord injury because it can cause severe infection and serious harm. Poor circulation is the underlying factor of many skin problems. Regardless of whether you have healthy skin already, problems such as incontinence and sitting in wet or soiled clothing can create uncomfortable skin issues. Encouraging a healthy skin routine now rather than later will prevent it from worsening over time.

Be aware of thermoregulation

The loss of sensation makes it difficult for a person with SCI to know whether their body is too warm or too cold as the messages are not sent to the brain in the usual way. It’s important to avoid exercise in extreme heat and avoid sitting in the sun for prolonged periods. When cold, it’s great to exercise to circulate blood flow and be conscious of clothing layers.

Aspire Law are here for you

Adjusting to spinal cord injury takes time and trying to live as healthily as possible will hopefully prevent further issues from developing. Aspire Law is a specialist law firm that works to support those with SCI. We are dedicated to providing information and support for everyone affected by spinal cord injury. For information and spinal cord injury legal advice, get in touch: give us a call on 0800 030 20 40.