Life After a Spinal Cord Injury Tips

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What should I do if I notice symptoms of hyperreflexia?

Hyperreflexia Symptoms

Hyperreflexia (autonomic dysreflexia) can be caused by anything that may be painful or uncomfortable after the spinal cord injury. An example is an overfull bladder or a bowel full of gas. Hyperreflexia can be a life threatening condition, as it affects blood pressure, and the blood pressure cannot be controlled.

Symptoms of hyperreflexia include:

  • Pounding headache (caused by the elevation in blood pressure)
  • Goose Pimples
  • Sweating above the level of injury
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Slow Pulse
  • Blotching of the Skin
  • Restlessness
Other simple things that could cause hyperreflexia are things most people do not think twice about, such as skin irritations, wounds, pressure sores, burns, pregnancy and ingrown toenails. There are also causes that are not quite as simple, such as broken bones and appendicitis.

If a patient notices symptoms of hyperreflexia, he or she should get to the hospital as soon as possible. To help prevent complications, according to, the patient should do the following

  • Remain in a sitting position, but do a pressure release immediately. You may transfer yourself to bed, but always keep your head elevated.
  • Since a full bladder is the most common cause, check the urinary drainage system. If you have a Foley or suprapubic catheter, check the following:
  • Is your drainage full?
  • Is there a kink in the tubing?
  • Is the drainage bag at a higher level than your bladder?
  • Is the catheter plugged?
Catheters must be changed if drainage does not start within two to three minutes. If there is no problem with the bladder or the catheter, check for pressure sores, ingrown toenails and fractured bones.

Is joining a support group for me?

Spinal Cord Injury Support

There are large support networks, not only for spinal cord injury patients, but for families and friends of a spinal cord injury patient. Support sites (online and offline) include resources, information on health issues relating to spinal cord injuries, general information on spinal cord injuries and contacts for help and assistance.

Resources include information on adaptive technology, books, medical supplies, medical equipment, information on traveling, spinal cord injury studies, local hospitals and rehabilitation centers and online magazines and newsletters.

There is also support for spinal cord injury health issues such as autonomic dysrefexia, bladder management, bowel management, skin management, wheelchair (manual and power) set up, pressure sores and urinary tract infections.

While there are many websites with information, has a list with links to all of these and more resources, plus listings of support groups that are listed by state.

When at all possible, a spinal cord injury patient should take advantage of the support groups and other information available. This information can help a patient cope with his or her spinal cord injury.

Are there other issues a spinal cord injury patient must be aware of?

Spinal Cord Injury Facts

The CDC shows that as of 1998, almost 200,000 people in the United States live with a disability that is related to a spinal cord injury and that about 11,000 people have a spinal cord injury each year. More than half of the people with a spinal cord injury are between 15 and 29 years of age.

Age plays a part is the causes of spinal cord injuries. In people who are under 65 years of age, vehicle accidents are typically the cause of the spinal cord injury, while falls cause people over 65 years of age to suffer from a spinal cord injury. Of those under 65 years of age, sports and recreation activities are about 18 percent of the causes of spinal cord injury.

A spinal cord injury may also present secondary conditions such as pressure sores, respiratory problems, urinary tract infections, spasticity and scoliosis. Another problem with spinal cord injury patients is hyperreflexia.

Does physical therapy help a spinal cord injury patient?

Spinal Cord Injury Physical Therapy

After surgery, and once the patient is stabilized, the patient must start rehabilitation. The patient will also need supportive care. Family members, nurses and specially trained aids can give supportive care. Supportive care includes helping the patient with daily living activities such as dressing, bathing, and changing positions to prevent bedsores.

Rehabilitation includes physical and occupational therapy and counseling for emotional support. A rehabilitation program is designed specifically for each individual patient, in order to meet that patient's needs.

Depending on the hospital the surgery was done at, rehabilitation services may be done at the hospital, or the patient may be admitted to a rehabilitation facility. This also depends on the severity of the spinal cord injury and the outcome of surgery. Some patients are able to complete rehabilitation at home or on an outpatient basis.

Physical therapy programs help restore muscle strength, flexibility, mobility, coordination and can also help the patient maintain body functions. Physical therapy consists of exercise, massage and hydrotherapy. It also includes gait training, if needed, and training to use assistive devices if needed.

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