The statistics about Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) are never good. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 2,50,000 to 5,00,000 people suffer from spinal cord injuries every year. About 90% of these injuries are due to traumatic reasons like vehicle accidents and falls.
WHO recognises SCI as a major musculoskeletal condition which has serious repercussions for the injured person, their family, and society. Despite all the bad news, there is a glimmer of hope for those who've suffered from SCI. Brain and spine rehabilitation centre experts say that timely medical help and therapies can help optimise recovery.
But before we unlock those details, let's first understand our main topic of discussion-the Spinal Cord Injury.
Life After A Spinal Cord Injury With Rehabilitation & Recovery
What's so special about the spinal cord?
The spinal cord is that wand-like structure on your back cradled within a layer of tissues called the meninges and protectively enclosed within a column of vertebrae. Your spinal cord relays hundreds of messages between your brain and your body, keeping both in synchronised coordination.
When your spinal cord suffers a traumatic blow, it results in fractured vertebrae that further damages the spinal cord and its nerves. Spinal cord injuries can range from mild to severe or even fatal. A spinal cord injury can completely change your life in ways you never imagined. In an instant, your life can go from being active and independent to being immobile and dependent.
Fortunately, there is plenty of hope for those who survive spinal cord injuries. Consistent rehabilitation and therapy allow them to bring their lives back on track. That said, the road to recovery from a spinal cord injury is not an easy one. It requires steely determination, perseverance, and a lot of positivity. The journey can be difficult and painful, but the results will be immensely rewarding. Besides, you will not be alone in your efforts. Your rehab team will provide the support, resources, and training to achieve your new milestones.
Here is a list of measures to help you regain your strength after an SCI and rebuild your life.
Physical Activity Regimen To Reconquer Your Fitness
Physical exercise for a patient with SCI can be one of the toughest things to do. However, it is also a powerful medicine to treat and prevent many health conditions after injury. This includes chronic ailments like:
- Weight gain
- High cholesterol
Let's not forget that people with SCI are more at risk of these chronic issues than the general population. Apart from keeping these debilitating health issues at bay, being physically fit also rewards you with additional benefits such as:
- Optimal body weight
- Reduced sugar and cholesterol levels
- Stronger muscles and bones
- Improved flexibility
- Better sleep patterns
- Decreased risk of heart disease
Guideline & Options To Commence Your Exercise Routine
Ideally, your exercise regimen should include ample stretching to relax your body, aerobics to add stamina, and strength training to regain muscle power.
The Centre for Disease Control & Prevention recommends three exercise options for patients recovering from SCI:
- 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercises once a week and strength training at least twice a week.
- 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous high-intensity aerobic exercises once a week and strength training at least twice a week.
- An equal mix of moderate aerobic exercises and strength training two or more days per week.
These guidelines are not mandatory. Even if you can't stick to this schedule, you should at least exercise regularly based on your physical abilities.
Exercise options for SCI patients
You would be surprised to learn about the vast number of exercise options that allow you to work out from the comfort of your home or along with your friends at the gym. Moreover, there are no hard and fast rules for exercising. The only objective is to move and make progress, no matter how small.
You can start your exercise routine with simple stretches to warm up your muscles. You can use exercise bands, a yoga mat, or a standing frame, whichever suits you best. Also, you can choose between standing or lying down to stretch your body to your convenience.
Once you have warmed up enough, you can move on to your aerobic exercises. Your options include:
- Hand cycling
- Circuit training
Want to include some strength training exercises to round off your routine? Why not? You can try:
- Exercises with resistance bands
Kickstarting your exercise routine will require a herculean effort. To get started and make it a part of your life, you will need to put in a lot of physical, mental, and emotional effort. You can follow these simple guidelines if you are unsure where to begin:
- Set attainable goals. Write them down and use them as a motivational tool to remind you why you started exercising.
- Choose an ideal location based on mobility, transportation options, and accessibility.
- Leverage your community resources. Keep in touch with other SCI patients, your doctors, therapists, friends, and family to find the right help.
- Choose an engaging activity. Anything will do as long as you keep yourself active. Do what inspires and energises you, and stick to it.
- Take it slow. Give your body time to adapt. Don't give up if you cannot do a certain exercise. Choose an easier one instead.
Exercising can be fun and highly motivating. However, you should also be extra careful and keep a watchful eye for potential problems such as:
- Bone density loss
- Autonomic Dysreflexia
- Orthostatic Hypotension
- Fluctuating body temperature
- Skin breakdown
You should notify your doctor or nurse immediately if you face discomfort while exercising. Additionally, you should commence your routine under the supervision of your doctor or physiotherapist.
Rehabilitation After SCI- The Right Path To Consistent Recovery
SCI rehabilitation is a wide-reaching process made possible by an army of professionals and experts. Amongst them, a physiotherapist plays a key role in helping you regain functionality and improve mobility. A rehab process includes many aspects that work in coordination to help you regain normalcy in your life.
Training with WSLT
WSLT or Weight Support Locomotor Training is a part of intensive rehab programs for Spinal Cord Injury. While WSLT has been shown to significantly improve mobility, it is primarily used to promote nerve connectivity.
WSLT is an activity therapy that mainly targets the regions above the traumatic injury and the locomotor central pattern generator with the spinal cord. The locomotor central pattern generator is a region of neurons that can generate movement without any input from the brain.
Rehabilitation with FES
FES or Functional Electrical Stimulation is a stimulator connected to electrodes. These devices are surgically implanted near the spinal cord to activate the nerves damaged by the injury. FES may allow you to:
- Regain motor control
- Perform normal bladder/ bowel functions
- Move the upper body
Experts say that FES will also help curb acute and chronic complications like pressure sores and respiratory problems.
Occupational therapy aims to help you regain your social, emotional, and functional aspects of life after the SCI. Your therapist will introduce adaptive devices and teach you to integrate them into your daily life. Consistent occupational therapy is the best solution to regain your independence after the injury.
Recovering from the mental, psychological, and emotional scars caused by SCI maybe far more challenging than overcoming physical hurdles. However, with the combined effort of a psychologist and a recreational therapist, you can restructure your mental wellbeing. Psychological therapy can help you manage depression and anxiety and rebuild your self-confidence.
SCI Rehabilitation With Hamsa: Your Reliable Support System
SCI rehabilitation can be a long and arduous journey- but one that is not impossible if you have the right experts to help you.
Hamsa Rehab gives you the most reliable rehab team to fall back on. Our professionals stay with you through every little step that takes you closer to attaining your goals. If you are looking for SCI rehabilitation for your or your loved ones, contact us today, and allow us to make your rehab a worthwhile journey.