In general, damage to the spinal cord is irreversible. However, researchers are constantly developing new treatments, including prosthetics and medications that can promote nerve regeneration and improve bodily functions that have been affected by a spinal cord injury.
What the patient can do after sustaining a spinal cord injury depends on the doctor’s findings during diagnostic testing. The rehabilitation regimen that the doctor prescribes to the injured patient will also affect the length of recovery.
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, it may not be curable, but there are steps you can take to make your life easier. Keep scrolling to learn more about what you should do after you are injured and the support that may be available to you.
What to Do if Your Spine Is Injured
In the immediate aftermath of a spinal cord injury, emergency personnel will typically try to maintain your ability to breathe, prevent you from falling into shock, and immobilize your neck to prevent further damage.
If it is determined that you do have a spinal cord injury, you will likely be admitted to an ICU for treatment. Regional spine injury centers can deliver the care you need to recover. Care is typically provided via a team that includes:
- Orthopedic surgeons
- Spinal cord specialists
- Social workers
These professionals have experience dealing with injuries like yours. They are your first line of support and your best shot at enjoying the highest possible quality of living.
Once a spinal cord injury patient’s condition stabilizes, doctors then focus on preventing other problems that may arise after the injury. These include muscle spasms, respiratory infections, ulcers, bowel and bladder issues, and even blood clots.
Rehabilitation of spinal cord injuries in physical terms is generally not possible, but patients can work toward getting back on their feet by following a comprehensive rehab program designed to address every facet of their lives in the aftermath of the accident.
Such treatment often includes the help of a nurse, a psychologist, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and a social worker. During the rehab period, patients are generally taught the following:
- The importance of body maintenance, strengthening existing muscle functions, re-learning fine motor skills, and learning how to use adaptive technologies to successfully complete daily tasks
- The effects of spinal cord injuries, how to prevent complications, and how to regain independence and improve your quality of life
- New skills that can help you live independently on your own as much as possible
- How to return to school or the workplace, resume your hobbies, and get active in social and post-therapy fitness programs
Depending on the availability of field experts, a dietitian, a recreational therapist, and a doctor who specializes in physical medicine may be brought on board to provide advice and guidance with regards to your rehab program.
Additional Rehabilitation Support Systems
Accidents that result in paralysis are life-changing. Recovery from these kinds of events takes time. Here are a few additional rehab support systems that patients can leverage to stay motivated, work toward recovery, and avoid chronic complications of spinal cord injury.
Take the time you need to grieve and come to terms with your injury. It is common to experience feelings of denial, disbelief, sadness, and anger after a life-changing accident. Grieving will help you reach the point of acceptance. It is then that you can begin your journey of healing.
Educating yourself about your injury and your options with regard to living an independent life is a good way to start living such a life. A wide range of assistive technology tools and social programs are available to spinal cord injury patients. These can teach you what you need to know to regain the independence you enjoyed before your injury.
Talking About Your Disability
Spinal cord injuries can leave the victim and their family members burdened by medical bills, confused, and isolated (Source: Pintas & Mullins). Because of this, you may feel awkward talking about your disability.
Different people in your social or personal circles will respond to your injury in different ways. Some of them may be somewhat uncomfortable and unsure about themselves. It is common for others to not know whether or not they are saying or doing the right things for you.
Be open about your needs and what your loved ones can do to help. Openness will help bring everyone on the same page and will reduce some of the stress and tensions you will likely face along the road to recovery.