Natural remedies for spinal cord injury recovery may be an alternative and complementary to conventional treatments.
Although the effectiveness of natural remedies cannot be guaranteed, a major benefit is that they’re relatively affordable and have minimal side effects.
To help you determine which alternative treatments are interesting for you, this article will discuss the pros and cons of 10 popular natural remedies for spinal cord injury.
Natural Remedies for Spinal Cord Injury
Because conventional forms of treatment for spinal cord injuries like medications and surgeries have a greater risk of unfavorable side effects, many turn to natural alternatives.
Natural remedies are typically used to relieve complications like pain, fatigue, anxiety, and poor sleep quality. These are all fairly common side effects of spinal cord injury, which make natural remedies worth considering.
Below are 10 natural remedies for spinal cord injury:
1. Massage Therapy
The first natural remedy to relieve symptoms for spinal cord injury patients is massage therapy.
Due to limited mobility after an SCI, individuals may experience poor circulation. Blood carries oxygen and other essential nutrients throughout the body, so efficient circulation is necessary to promote overall health.
One major benefit of massage therapy is that it stimulates blood flow, which increases the body’s ability to absorb oxygen into the tissues.
It also relaxes the muscles and relieves tension, which will help reduce pain and improve range of motion.
This study of 117 spinal cord injury patients found that massage was the most commonly used natural treatment for spinal cord injury pain. Moreover, it was also the treatment that spinal cord injury patients continued to use long-term.
After a spinal cord injury, you may feel disconnected from your body. Yoga is a natural alternative that focuses on joining the mind and body through deep breathing, meditation, and postures.
Adaptive yoga modifies the positions so that individuals with spinal cord injuries can safely participate.
It helps lower cortisol levels in the brain, which can help reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress. A clear mindset may also contribute to a good night’s rest.
Over time, yoga may help individuals with spinal cord injuries improve their stability, strength, flexibility, and posture.
3. Diet and Supplements
Spinal cord injury recovery is holistic, meaning that everything from what you think to what to eat may contribute to your overall success.
After a spinal cord injury, individuals often have changes in body composition, metabolism, and mental health. By consuming a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, individuals may optimize their motivation, energy levels, and physical abilities for more effective healing during rehabilitation.
Additionally, taking supplements may provide additional vitamins and nutrients for one’s current diet.
Aromatherapy is the use of plant extracts in the form of essential oils to improve health and wellbeing.
It involves inhaling or applying essential oils onto the skin, which stimulates physiological responses in your endocrine, nervous, and immune systems.
Different essential oils have different effects on the body, so treatment can be customized to your specific complications.
For example, some oils may help promote relaxation while others may reduce pain and inflammation.
Another popular natural remedy used by individuals with spinal cord injuries is acupuncture. It involves placing thin, hair-like needles into specific points on the body to improve energy flow.
It stimulates the nervous system to increase inflammatory responses throughout the body and release neurotransmitters that help relieve pain and boost mood.
Acupuncture is most commonly used to treat chronic pain but is also associated with other benefits including better circulation, reduced spasticity, and improved mental health.
6. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Oxygen is essential because it fuels cellular activity. Without sufficient amounts of it, our bodies will not function properly.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen at increased pressures.
It’s suggested that the increased oxygen levels can help reduce secondary damage after spinal cord injury by:
- reducing inflammation and swelling
- promoting tissue growth
- reducing cell deaths
- increasing the production of antioxidant enzymes.
Most complications experienced after a spinal cord injury are the result of secondary processes. Reducing the exacerbation of secondary processes can help minimize overall damage.
7. Chiropractic Treatment
Another popular natural remedy for spinal cord injury is chiropractic treatment. It involves manipulating the alignment of the spinal column to alleviate pressure, promote circulation, and reduce pain.
The spinal cord is a delicate bundle of nerves, and especially after an SCI, the spinal column needs time to heal. Additionally, every spinal cord injury is unique and stabilizes at its own rate. Therefore, it’s essential to consult with your doctor about how long after a spinal cord injury it is safe to try chiropractic treatment.
Hypnotherapy is a guided meditation intended to promote mental clarity, deep relaxation, and reduce the perception of pain.
Hypnotherapy is not a stand-alone treatment and will work better in combination with other treatments.
9. Medical Marijuana
Some spinal cord injury patients may turn to the use of medical marijuana for pain and spasticity relief.
However, it also affects other areas of the brain and may cause poor concentration, short-term memory, anxiety, delayed reactions, and increase heart rate.
To avoid the psychoactive effects of marijuana, many people use CBD products. CBD is a chemical compound in marijuana that provides pain relief.
This study reported that out of many alternative treatments for pain, marijuana provided the most relief. However, its effects did not last as long as massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic treatment.
10. Physical Therapy
The best natural remedy for spinal cord injury is physical therapy. Ultimately, spinal cord injury recovery requires teaching your brain, spinal cord, and body to work together through repetitive practice.
A physical therapist will assess your functional abilities and guide you through a customized exercise plan. These exercises build strength, maintain range of motion, and stretch tight muscles.
While damage to the spinal cord is permanent, undamaged neurons in the spinal cord have neuroplasticity, the ability to adapt and rewire themselves.
Every movement you make stimulates the spinal cord. Consistently practicing weakened movements will help the spinal cord perceive a demand for that function and promote rewiring.
Natural Remedies for Spinal Cord Injury: Key Points
Like any treatment, natural remedies for spinal cord injury will work differently on everyone and their effects cannot be guaranteed.
Alternative treatments are generally more cost-effective and have a lower risk of side effects, therefore they may be worth trying before committing to conventional treatments like medications and surgeries.
As always, consult with your doctor before trying new treatments to make sure it is safe for your specific spinal cord injury. Good luck!