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How to Cope with a Spinal Cord Injury

How to Cope with a Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating condition. Living with an SCI is a life-altering experience that is riddled with both physical and emotional challenges.  It is easy to wonder how a spinal cord injury can affect the survivor so deeply but the explanations are very scientific. Therefore, coping with SCI requires resilience, adaptability, and an optimistic mindset.

Through this comprehensive guide, let’s explore the various aspects of life with spinal cord injury, along with coping strategies, life expectancy considerations, and the importance of perseverance.

What is an SCI?

Spinal cord injury is caused by a traumatic injury to the spinal cord. The injury is so severe that it can either bruise, partially tear, or completely tear the spinal cord.

It results in the loss of function and sensation below the injury site. An SCI can lead to paralysis, affecting mobility and daily activities. Coping with SCI involves navigating physical, emotional, and social changes. 

Read more about SCI and the different types of SCI here.

The time that immediately follows an injury to the spinal cord may often result in paralysis. This can be confusing and extremely traumatic. There are counsellors who can play a positive role in helping the survivors of such injuries reach a level where they can accept what has happened to them and then strive towards leading a better productive life. Sometimes the counsellor works together with the survivors and family to ensure an optimum quality of life.

The first phase post the spinal cord injury is called the acute phase. The survivor is encouraged to talk about all aspects of the incident which has happened. A lot of knowledge is gathered about the emotional, physiological and cognitive condition of the spinal cord injury survivor in question. The survivor is then helped to reach a suitable list which contains all the tasks which he/ she can still do independently. Encouragement is provided to continue doing those tasks. For the tasks that require assistance, the survivor is coached to gracefully accept help for the same. Financial, employment paperwork and data for insurance is gathered as these are all critically important for a spinal cord injury survivor.

Coping Strategies for Life with Spinal Cord Injury

Be positive

Cultivate a positive mindset. Although this sounds easier said than done, acceptance of the situation, coupled with a determination to overcome challenges, is essential for living with SCI. Focus on what can be achieved rather than dwelling on what you cannot do. Surround yourself with friends, family, and healthcare professionals who are supportive of your journey, and can contribute to a positive mental outlook.

Ask for professional help

Rehabilitation is key to adapting to life with SCI. Physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and mental health professionals are your crucial allies. Our team of highly skilled therapists and SCI specialists can provide guidance on mobility, adaptive technologies, and psychological support. Regular sessions can greatly benefit in physical rehabilitation and help you cope with emotional challenges.

Consider/adopt adaptive technologies

Adaptive technologies, such as wheelchairs, voice-activated devices, and computer interfaces, can empower you to regain independence and even improve your everyday functioning. Explore and incorporate these technologies to make a substantial difference in your journey with SCI.

Be physically active

While SCI can seriously limit mobility, physical health and fitness still remain of utmost importance. Adaptive exercises and activities designed for individuals with SCI can contribute to overall well-being. At Plexus, our team of expert physiotherapists will personalize a fitness plan that takes into account your specific needs and capabilities.

Lean on a supportive social community

Being socially isolated can seriously impact your emotional well-being. Build and maintain a supportive social network that will stand by you and encourage you. Engage in community activities, support groups, and connect with others facing similar challenges. This will help provide a sense of belonging, and reduce feelings of inadequacy and isolation.

Life Expectancy with Spinal Cord Injury

To fully understand life expectancy with spinal cord injury one has to consider various factors, such as the degree and type of the injury, overall health, and access to healthcare. Although life expectancy may be impacted, today’s advanced medical care and rehabilitation can significantly improve outcomes for individuals with SCI.

Improved medical interventions, such as regenerative medicine (for e.g. stem cell therapy), surgical techniques, medications, and preventative care, contribute to better overall health outcomes. Access to quality healthcare and effective management of secondary complications can determine life expectancy. Regular check-ups, preventive care, and prompt diagnosis of medical issues can help individuals with SCI maintain optimal health, as well as reduce the risk of further complications.

Mental health is intricately connected with physical well-being, and therefore by extension to life expectancy. The emotional upheaval that often accompanies SCI takes a heavy toll on the survivor’s mental health, leading to many of them struggling with depression, anxiety, and other conditions. Seeking psychological support and maintaining a positive mindset can positively impact life expectancy.

Plexus’ Rehabilitation for Spinal Cord Injury

At Plexus Bangalore and Hyderabad, we offer advanced regenerative rehabilitation programs for SCI that can be customized to suit the patient’s specific symptoms and goals. The primary focus of our rehabilitation programs is recovery and on getting back to a semblance of independent existence in the context of productive life, social context and work. For this, commitment to therapy is required and a positive attitude is actively cultivated. All little achievements of the recovering individual are celebrated and simple tasks are started in a structured way before any complicated task is approached. There are many long term goals set for the patient once a holistic psychological and medical assessment is done.

Our program comprises:

  • Gait and mobility training
  • Balance training
  • Activities for daily living (ADL) training
  • Physical conditioning
  • Task relearning
  • Trunk control
  • Strength training
  • Transitional patterns training

Role of our team members in rehabilitation process

There is an interdisciplinary team which is handed over the special task of rehabilitating the survivor of the spinal cord injury and each member of the recovery team has a special role to play. There are nurses who work as the primary education provider, emotional booster and caregivers. A number of therapists like recreational, vocational physical therapists and occupational ones impart life skills which help in restoring functionality. Physicians are available for prescribing medication and assessing the physical state. Psychologists are also assigned for facilitating the much needed emotional release as such a form of injury usually leads to deep emotional scars.

Coping with spinal cord injury is much like a multidimensional journey. It requires physical rehabilitation, emotional stability, as well as social support. From the survivor, it also requires determination, resilience, and courage. At Plexus, we’ve had many such determined and spirited survivors of SCI who’ve gone on to live fulfilling lives.


How do you overcome a spinal cord injury?

Living and coping with a spinal cord injury involves rehabilitation, adaptive technologies, and a positive outlook towards life. Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and psychological support also play crucial roles in helping the survivor accept their condition and move forward with their diagnosis. 

Can you live a normal life with a spinal cord injury?

Definitely. Living a normal life with spinal cord injury is possible. Today with adaptive technologies and rehabilitation, an SCI does not have to stand in the way of leading a normal life. Additionally, with a supportive social network, survivors can regain independence and actively participate in daily activities.

What are the signs your spine injury is serious?

The following are the major signs of an SCI:

  • Respiratory issues
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of feeling in arms, legs, or chest
  • Loss of voluntary movement of muscles in chest, arms, or legs
  • Loss of bowel and/or bladder control and function
  • Loss of sexual function

Immediate medical attention is crucial if any of these symptoms are present to prevent further damage.

Can a damaged spinal cord heal?

Regenerative therapies, like stem cell therapy, offer survivors a ray of hope when it comes to living with SCI. Stem cell therapy helps regenerate and/or replace damaged neurons in the spinal cord. This can help greatly with managing symptoms of SCI, thus empowering the survivor to lead a more fulfilling life.

What is life expectancy after spinal cord injury?

Life expectancy after a spinal cord injury is determined by various factors, such as the level and severity of the injury, access to healthcare, and overall physical and mental health. 

Is spinal cord damage permanent?

Most SCIs are permanent. However, with timely rehabilitation that comprises physiotherapy, occupational therapy, regenerative therapies, and assistive technologies, individuals with SCI can go on to lead purposeful lives.

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