Manage your spinal cord injury pain with 5 lifestyle changes

Do you have spinal cord injury? If so, here's an essential guide for you that can help manage your pain.
spinal cord injury
Follow these tips to manage the pain of spinal cord injury. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Kaustubh Mahajan Published: 22 Sep 2022, 02:15 pm IST
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People suffering from spinal cord injury usually face difficulty transitioning to everyday life. This is mainly because spinal cord injuries can dramatically affect the quality of life and even hamper it drastically. Further, since battling pain can become a challenging situation for patients, overcoming these injuries or pain management becomes essential for their recovery.

Spinal cord injury pain management with chronic pain

Chronic pain management is one of the patients’ most vital aspects of the post-recovery process. Since chronic pain can sometimes last many months and years, it becomes necessary for patients to learn and deal with their pain. Also, as chronic pain cannot be eliminated, learning how to manage or effectively reduce it becomes crucial for patients with such injuries. In such a situation, understanding the nature of pain and working with a team of experts, including a spinal cord expert, will help you gauge treatment options and find something that will match your specific requirements.

What are the types of spinal cord injury pains you can experience?

Before we go ahead, it is essential to understand the various types of pain that a patient undergoing spinal cord injuries might encounter. Some major types of pain that a patient might encounter include:

1. Neuropathic pain: Caused by abnormal communication between the nerves that the injury has damaged, neuropathic pain causes the brain to misunderstand the signals coming from the injury area. This can result in pain from regions where the patient has no feeling otherwise.

Since neuropathic pain can vary from person to person, it becomes difficult to treat it using the same techniques. A combination of treatment methods is most effective in treating this pain.

spinal cord injury
Patience is the key for spinal cord injury reabilitation. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Musculoskeletal Pain: Caused by problems in the muscles, joints or bones, musculoskeletal pain can result from injuries, overuse or strain caused by age, arthritic changes, and frequent use of a wheelchair. This type of pain usually gets worse with movement and better with rest.

3. Visceral Pain: Defined as pain in the abdomen, visceral pain is often described as cramping or dull aching in the stomach and digestive area. This pain can cause various medical issues like constipation, kidney stones, ulcer, gall stone or appendicitis.

How to manage pain after spinal cord injuries?

Since pain can affect each person differently, there is no single way to treat it. A combination of medicines, therapy and other treatment options is the most effective. Sometimes, psychological treatment may also be needed so that the patient can overcome the anxiety and depression that can result from such injuries. Here are a few lifestyle tips that can help such patients:

1. Treat other medical issues

Since patients with spinal cord injuries may suffer from various medical issues like urinary tract infections, bowel problems, skin problems and sleep problems, it is essential to treat them too. Proper diagnosis of these situations can help to make the overall health and recovery of a person better and smoother.

Also, read: 3 exercises you can do if you have a spinal cord injury

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2. Stay physically active

While exercise might not be possible initially, becoming physically active is highly recommended as it can play a pivotal role in helping to improve a person’s mood and overall health. It can also effectively distract a person from the pain. However, always consult a doctor before starting any health regime.

3. Treat depression

Many patients with severe injuries, including spinal cord wounds, tend to become depressed and anxious. In such a situation, pain can worsen, making recovery an arduous process. In such a situation, seeking treatment for depression is critical to improving the quality of life.

spinal cord injury
Stress can worsen your case. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Keep stress at bay

Stress can damage the recovery process, which is why learning to manage stress through coping techniques is critical. Since these techniques can help you reduce stress, patients must seek the help of a counselor in case they feel that anxiety is interfering with their recovery.

5. Follow a healthy lifestyle

Good lifestyle habits, including a good diet, reduced or no alcohol consumption and saying no to smoking, can go a long way in helping a patient recover in a faster manner. Further, alcohol can harm your recovery as not many medicines mix well with drinking. If a patient wants to drink, they must consult a doctor first.
Everyone’s pain is a little different and keeping a record of what makes a patient feel better and what makes the pain worse, is highly recommended.

Understanding things that affect the pain levels in a person will help them and their doctors to find effective ways to reduce the pain.

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About the Author

Dr Kaustubh Mahajan, Consultant Neurologist, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim, A Fortis Associate  ...Read More

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