Staying Healthy after a Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury affects everything from your skin health to your bladder. In addition to having to learn to navigate the world differently, you also have to be vigilant about preventing secondary complications, like infections, sores and autonomic hyperreflexia. Being proactive about your health is the best way to do that.

Staying in Shape

Exercise is the best way to make a long-term impact on promoting neural recovery and preventing secondary complications. Plus, getting active has an added bonus: it can also boost your mood and provide a way for you to meet new people.

Taking up a new sport is one way to get moving. But if sports aren’t your thing, there are other ways to get fit. Weightlifting, yoga, and even beatboxing can be good choices, depending on your level of injury. Check out this video series from The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation that can help you get started with some basic exercises.

Eating the Right Foods

Obesity, bone density and bowel issues are just a few of the secondary conditions that people with spinal cord injuries face. Just like exercise, eating the right foods is one of the best ways to take your long-term care into your own hands and prevent or lessen the impact of these complications.

One barrier to healthy eating is how mobility issues affect your ability to cook. Restaurant food, even at so-called “healthy” eateries, can be packed with sodium and cooked in lots of oils. Watch how Cory Parsons, a quadriplegic with a love for cooking, shows how he gets around in the kitchen:

If your level of injury prevents you from being able to cook independently, work with your caregiver to create a healthy meal plan. This video series on nutrition basics from The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation should get you started.

Getting Mental Health Care

Many people experience depression after a spinal cord injury — sometimes for years. It’s easy to neglect your mental health when your physical health demands more of your attention. You may be dealing with feelings of helplessness, guilt about the affect your injury has on your family and losing friends. You also may have fear and anxiety caused by the incident that led to your injury.

All of these feelings are completely normal and not uncommon. Working with a mental health professional one-on-one, along with group therapy sessions can help. Local support groups are also a good resource. The United Spinal Association has put together this list of support groups by state. If you can’t find a support group near you, there are a wealth of resources online. You can find forums, support groups and online communities to help you deal with life after your injury.

Do you have any tips to share on how to stay healthy after injury? Please tell us about it in the comments below!

The recommendations and information in this material are not medical advice. Contact your healthcare professional for personal medical advice or diagnosis.

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