Are medications for spinal cord injury an effective treatment for paralysis?
Unfortunately, there are many barriers that prevent your spinal cord from healing and the search for a treatment is still in progress.
However, medications can help stabilize the primary injury and treat many secondary complications people face after spinal cord injury.
7 Effective Medications for Spinal Cord Injury
These 7 medications can help you manage various complications that may arise after SCI.
After spinal cord injury, your body activates a bunch of defense mechanisms.
This causes swelling and inflammation, which can become dangerous and cut off blood flow.
Reduced blood flow prevents oxygen and nutrients supply to neurons, leading to many cell deaths.
Corticosteroids are powerful medications used to reduce swelling of the spinal cord.
The most commonly used corticosteroid for spinal cord injury is Methylprednisolone.
Depression is more than just feeling sad. It’s the loss of interest in things that usually bring you joy, inability to concentrate, lack of energy, and changes in sleeping and eating habits.
Depression can also result from chronic pain.
Antidepressants increase neurotransmitter levels in the brain, which helps relieve pain and uplift your mood.
Antidepressants like SSRIs and SNRIs can help balance neurotransmitter levels in your brain.
SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) increase serotonin levels by blocking its reabsorption in the brain.
One of the main functions of serotonin is to make you feel happy. It also plays a role in sleep and appetite regulation
SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors): SSNRIs work the same way SSRIs do, except that they also block the reabsorption of another neurotransmitter called norepinephrine.
Norepinephrine helps improve energy and alertness.
Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs can easily be purchased from the shelves of any drug store to treat pain after spinal cord injury.
People often overlook NSAIDs because they assume they’re not strong enough, but when used in combination with other pain treatments, they can be very effective.
Examples of NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).
They help relieve pain and swelling by slowing the production of prostaglandins, which play a huge role in reducing your body’s inflammatory response.
Anticonvulsants or antiepileptics are medications for spinal cord injury pain.
Even though spinal cord injury patients don’t get seizures, anticonvulsants can help soothe your nerves so that you don’t feel so much pain.
The most commonly used anticonvulsants for neuropathic pain are Gabapentinoids, which increase the activity of inhibitory neurons.
Opioids are another medication for spinal cord injury pain.
They are powerful and can be very effective in relieving pain after spinal cord injury.
Opioids work by attaching to opioid receptors and inhibit pain signals.
They activate neurotransmitters that affect not only pain, but also mood, digestion, movement, and reward perception.
However, they’re classified as narcotics and can easily be abused due their tolerance-building and addictive qualities.
Because people can easily develop dependence and tolerance to opioids, they’re most effective for short-term treatment.
6. Muscle Relaxants
Muscle relaxants can help reduce spasticity after SCI.
Spasticity occurs after a spinal cord injury because your brain and body cannot communicate.
Your spinal cord steps in and as a defense mechanism, makes your muscles contract to prevent injury.
This causes them to stay tight, which can result in spasms and discomfort.
Baclofen is the most commonly prescribed muscle relaxant to treat spasticity.
Muscle relaxants alter the chemical balance in the central nervous system to reduce hyperactive muscle contractions. This helps reduce pain and discomfort caused by muscles that have been contracted for too long.
Respiratory complications are the leading cause of death in spinal cord injury patients.
Many cervical and thoracic spinal cord injury patients have low lung capacity and weak abdominal muscles which makes it difficult to cough.
When you can’t cough properly, you become more prone to respiratory infections like pneumonia.
Antibiotics kill bacteria to prevent the spread of infection and can help clear the lungs of mucus buildup so that it’s easier to breathe and cough.
Considerations Before Taking Medications for Spinal Cord Injury
SCI patients should take time to go over all the potential side effects associated with their medications.
Especially with spinal cord injury, side effects like constipation, osteoporosis, and low blood pressure can be very difficult to deal with.
To prevent further complications, be sure to only take the recommended dose of medication, eat a nutrient-dense diet, and exercise regularly.
Medications for spinal cord injury can help you deal with pain, spasticity, infections, and depression, but many also find lots of benefits with alternative treatments.
If you seek lower-risk treatments, massage therapy, marijuana, and acupuncture are popular alternatives that may be worth looking into.