A spinal cord injury is a traumatic event that can lead to a host of physical and emotional problems. While it’s not always easy, it’s essential to be positive and stay motivated towards recovery.
To help motivate you on the road to recovery, we’ve put together a list of 6 things every spinal cord injury survivor needs to know.
We hope this article fills you with hope.
1. Things Get Worse Before They Get Better
After a spinal cord injury, your spinal cord may go into spinal shock. The body sends out a bunch of powerful chemicals in an effort to stabilize the spinal cord.
All those chemicals can cause your spinal cord to swell, and the more it swells, the less blood it receives.
Blood is rich in oxygen, and oxygen fuels your cells so that the body can function properly.
Therefore, swelling can cut off blood flow in the spinal cord, which can cause you to lose a lot of control over movements.
Don’t worry, this is temporary! Healing takes time.
Once the swelling dies down, functions may gradually start to return.
2. Recovery is Possible
The spinal cord is made up of a bunch of neural pathways that connect your brain to your body. Once these pathways are damaged by spinal cord injury, they can’t heal. However, there is hope!
Neuroplasticity is your central nervous system’s ability to rewire itself. This is the most important concept you need to understand about spinal cord injury recovery.
The spinal cord is capable of learning, forgetting, and relearning functions. Chances are, your spinal cord injury did not completely transect your spinal cord.
Some pathways may have been spared (although, they might be a little bit traumatized). Fortunately, these spared pathways are your greatest hope for recovery.
Neuroplasticity works through these spared pathways. They can create new connections to the brain so that you can recover lost functions.
Performing lots of repetitive movements is the best way to activate neuroplasticity.
The more you practice moving, the stronger the pathways get, and the more natural movements become.
3. It’s Never Too Late for Recovery
Drawing by Demitri Martin
Sometimes, you can go weeks or even months without seeing any improvement. This is completely normal because recovery is not linear.
After a traumatic event like spinal cord injury, the spinal cord experiences an increased state of plasticity.
This typically lasts for about 6 months or so, which is why the most recovery is observed during the early periods following an SCI.
That does not mean that plasticity goes away. The spinal cord will always have plasticity, so if you’re willing to put in the effort, we believe it’s never too late for recovery!
Many spinal cord injury patients see improvements years and years following their injury. It’s all about consistency and trusting the process.
4. Your Mental Health is Just as Important as Your Physical Health
Spinal cord injury recovery is both a physical and mental journey.
Your mental state affects your physical state just as much as your physical state affects your mental state.
Think holistically. Your mind and body function best when you eat healthily, exercise regularly, and get quality sleep.
Sometimes life gets chaotic and overwhelming. It’s okay to take a break!
As long as you return energized and ready to pick up from where you left off, a mental and physical break can be very healthy.
5. You’re Not Alone
You don’t have to go through spinal cord injury recovery on your own.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Your friends and family want to see you get better.
If you ever feel like your loved ones just don’t understand what you’re going through, consider joining a spinal cord injury support group.
There, you’ll be surrounded by lots of people that have been in your situation. You can help each other out by sharing experiences.
Joining a support group is also a great way to gain access to a plethora of information and helpful resources.
If you can’t find a spinal cord injury support group near you, consider joining an online support group or forum. Technology makes it easier than ever to communicate with others; you don’t even have to leave your home!
6. Hope and Positivity are Essential for Recovery
Be an opportunist! Spinal cord injury recovery can provide you with a new sense of purpose.
Dwelling on the past will hold you back. Think presently and envision a positive future.
This doesn’t mean that you have to find new hobbies and give up on everything you loved before.
However, you do have to be open to adjusting or relearning how you do things.
Accept your situation and figure out what you can do from now on to make ends work.
Spinal cord injury recovery is a long journey and not every day is going to be easy, but as long as you keep going, your hard work will pay off.
We highly recommend documenting your progress through pictures, videos, or journal entries to remind yourself where you started and how far you’ve come.
Hopefully, this article inspired you to continue working hard towards your recovery.
Spinal cord injury recovery may just be the most rewarding experience of your life, so stick to it!
For an extra motivation boost, check these spinal cord injury recovery stories!
Featured image: ©iStock.com/apeyron