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Living With a Spinal Cord Injury - Topic Overview

What happens after a spinal cord injury? continued...

As soon as you are stable, rehabilitation (rehab) starts. The goal of rehab is to help prepare you for life after rehab and help you be as independent as possible. What happens in rehab depends on your level of injury. The rehab team will help you to learn how to:

  • Prevent problems like pressure sores and know when you need to call a doctor.
  • Exercise to keep your muscles strong and flexible.
  • Eat a balanced diet to help you stay healthy and manage your weight.
  • Learn to do things that most people do without thinking, such as managing your bladder and bowel.
  • Use a wheelchair or other devices so you can do things you enjoy.

There is a lot to learn, and it may seem overwhelming at times. But with practice and support, it will get easier.

What is life like with a spinal cord injury?

Having a spinal cord injury changes some things forever, but you can still have a full and rewarding life. A saying among people who have a spinal cord injury is, "Before your injury, you could do 10,000 things. Now you can do 9,000. So are you going to worry about the 1,000 things you can't do or focus on the 9,000 things you can do?"

After they adjust, many people with spinal cord injuries are able to work, drive, play sports, and have relationships and families. Your rehab team can provide the support, training, and resources to help you move toward new goals. It's up to you to make the most of what they have to offer.

Adapting to life with a spinal cord injury can be tough. You can expect to feel sad or angry at times or to grieve for your lost abilities. It is important to express these feelings so they don't keep you from moving ahead. Talk with family and friends, find a support group, or connect with others online. Talking to other people who have spinal cord injuries can be a big help.

It's hard to enjoy life if you have ongoing pain or depression. If you do, tell your doctor. There are medicines and other treatments that can help.

Caring for a person who has a spinal cord injury can be both rewarding and difficult. If you help take care of someone who has a spinal cord injury, don't forget to take care of yourself too. Find a local support group, and make time to do things you enjoy.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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