Sustaining a serious spinal cord injury can quickly change the entire course of your life. Adjusting to these new changes may take time, and the process varies based on the individual circumstances of your accident. The severity of your injury will likely determine your level of mobility going forward, and the location of your injury will also affect what you can still do following your accident. With about 17,700 new victims suffering spinal cord injuries each year, many people must learn how to cope with such injuries. Understanding how they have the potential to impact your life and how to make modifications to your life and habits based on those injuries can help you move forward following an injury.
Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries
When most people think of spinal cord injuries, they imagine the worst: partial or full paralysis. Paralysis, however, only represents one of the symptoms associated with spinal cord injuries. The spinal cord, due to its central location in the body, can also impact a number of other common functions, and a severe injury to the spinal cord can transform the way you live your life. With spinal cord damage, you may also experience:
- Sexual problems
- Pain or tingling at the site of the injury
- Phantom pain or tingling referred from the injury site
- Breathing problems
- Skin problems, including bedsores due to poor mobility
- Changes in the way you perceive sensation, including both numbness and increased sensitivity
Prognosis After a Spinal Cord Injury
After suffering a spinal cord injury, you may wonder whether you will ever recover. Will you regain the ability to walk? What about simply moving your fingers? Several factors may influence your recovery.
- Where did your injury occur? The higher on the spinal cord your injury occurs, the greater the likelihood that you will struggle with reduced mobility for the rest of your life. Injuries high on the spinal cord are also more likely to cause serious health issues or even lead to death. However, injuries further down the spinal cord can still result in serious, life-long consequences, depending on their severity.
- Are you working hard at physical therapy? Physical therapy can improve outcomes for many victims of spinal cord damage. If you complete physical therapy exercises according to the directions your therapist gives you, you may increase your movement and your odds of restoring normal function.
- Was the injury complete or incomplete? A completely severed spinal cord has a lower likelihood of regeneration or increased movement than an incomplete spinal cord injury.
Spinal cord injuries vary from individual to individual. In many cases, you may have unexpected advances in your condition. Even your doctor may not accurately predict your prognosis immediately following your accident. You may experience slow progress over time or see sudden increases in your abilities, depending on the extent of your injuries.
Coping With Spinal Cord Injuries
After a spinal cord injury, you may need to make substantial modifications to your life to maintain the highest possible quality of life. Your doctors and your physical therapist will help recommend many of the modifications that make the most sense for your lifestyle and your needs. Several common methods, however, can improve your ability to cope with spinal cord injury.
- Seek counseling if needed. Many victims of spinal cord injury suffer symptoms of anxiety or depression as they learn to cope with their new limitations. Seeking help from a qualified therapist can make it easier to cope with those changes and challenges in your life.
- Evaluate your goals. You may discover that your accident and your spinal cord injury changed your perspective on life. You may have new goals and priorities for your future. Carefully consider your goals, then create plans for how to accomplish them. You can still seek a job with meaning, pursue a family, or enjoy your other goals with a spinal cord injury; however, you may need to exercise more flexibility in your planning or change your current strategies to reflect your new abilities.
- Communicate. You may need more help from a spouse or other caregiver than you did before the accident. Open communication can make it easier for you to rely on them as well as make it easier for them to take care of your needs. Discuss your needs and concerns. Troubleshoot problems together, if necessary. In many cases, this open communication can bring you closer together.
- Take advantage of the resources available to you. Many schools and universities, for example, offer extensive benefits and assistance for students with disabilities, including spinal cord injuries. Your job may offer similar accommodations to make it possible for you to continue working in your chosen field. Take the time to learn what options exist, then connect with available services and take advantage of the ones you need to lead a fulfilling life.
- Connect with others who are living with spinal cord injuries. While your injuries and prognosis are likely unique to your injuries, talking with others who have experienced similar injuries can help you better understand what you’re going through, and they can offer advice that will help you troubleshoot common problems and make your life more active, full, and fulfilling. Look into online groups, including Facebook groups and private forums. There, you can connect with other individuals who have already been down this path and receive advice and support.
- Check your attitude. Your accident likely had little impact on your overall personality. You still have the same fundamental coping mechanisms that you’ve always have. Fortunately, a positive attitude and a solid support system can make it easier for you to weather the storm of your spinal cord injury. Take steps to uplift yourself and keep your attitude positive. It may surprise you what you can still accomplish in spite of your injuries.
Do You Need More Information After a Spinal Cord Injury?
Did you sustain a spinal cord injury in an accident, whether a slip and fall accident, a construction accident, or a vehicle crash? If so, call a spinal cord injury lawyer to help answer your questions and seek compensation for your injuries.